Corporate communicators enter the Year of the Dog if not with a spring in their step then at least more optimistic than they have been for months. Theresa May’s success in phase one of the Brexit talks has made an exodus of businesses from the UK during 2018 less likely, shifted Corbyn a little bit further away from the door of No10, and allowed dealmakers and investors to look ahead with confidence. Business ought to be brisk, if not booming.
But which communications consultancies will do well in 2018? Even more than ever before, it will be those who stick to the knitting. There will be a scrabble to be innovative: we’ll find ourselves trying to weave augmented reality into every comms programme, use AI in every pitch, and monitor, map and harness the most cutting edge social influencers. But this tactical stuff is in the end just tactical. Our real job is to identify what our clients want to achieve, and give them reliable advice about how to do it.
Sensible agencies will remember this in 2018, and will focus on thinking big and giving genuinely strategic advice. They will also worry about content creation, developing compelling stories and telling them with flair and passion. They will deploy great writers and intelligent designers as well as senior advisors. They will base their recommendations on research and insight. In short, they will go back to basics.
To deliver all this for their clients agencies will increasingly adopt one of two models. They will either have scale, with the best people employed permanently within their own ranks. Or they will be nimble, small and specialist. Agencies that are neither big nor small, unable to deal with the biggest briefs but too stodgy to respond quickly and smartly, carrying too much cost but not earning the big bucks, will continue to struggle.
Therefore, agencies will think smartly about all of their costs. With fierce competition for staff still a huge issue for most, we will continue to ask ourselves different questions about how we are organised. For example, why not have people, particularly perhaps those involved in creative or digital work, in a vibrant and much cheaper city like Manchester? Why not allow people to work from home, or better yet, from clients’ offices? Why carry the burden of permanent staff rather than limit ourselves to a core of client handlers able to bring together a bespoke team of the very best from outside the firm? In 2018, in short, good agencies will continue to evolve.