Can Digital Agencies Survive as PR Agencies Move in on their Turf?

Who will win the battle for social and digital media dollars?

With more traditional PR agencies taking on digital work, digital-only agencies face not only more competition, but a different perception among marketers.

In a 2011 New Business Report – A Client’s Look Ahead at Agencies – 174 marketing decision-makers were polled regarding their agency use and satisfaction. While only 52% classify their current agency as full-service, a mere 6% stated that they were very likely to use an exclusively digital agency in the future. However, marketers did show some confidence in the ability of digital firms to win full service work. Also, only 55% of those surveyed stated that they were very likely to use their primary agencies services again.

At present, it appears that while preferring a full-service agency, the minds and doors of marketers are open to using digital agencies that can expand their offerings.

So how should a digital-only agency respond to the current changing marketplace? If the market is demanding a full-service agency, maybe it is time to bring on personnel that can handle PR, print, etc… The challenge with this approach is adding overhead prior to acquiring new business.

One key question: Have you recently lost business because you are not a full-service agency?

If growing your agency is not an option, partnering with a firm that could use your digital expertise could be a solution. You will have to identify an agency that could really benefit from partnering and will not likely become your competition in the near future. Partnering is also an opportunity to find a particularly good fit for a merger.

There are usually opportunities in every market for specialists that are the best in their niche. The danger in specializing is that your prospect list shrinks and the data shows a greater desire for full-service agencies. There is also no room for mediocrity or slight differentiation (maybe not such a bad thing) because a marketer won’t have a reason to manage an additional agency relationship for only a minor benefit.

So PR agencies that are expanding and digital-only agencies, do you agree with the survey results? What are you seeing in the market? How, if at all, will your agency change going forward?

About the Author
Vince Robisch helps businesses find the words and tools that improve their web presence. You can find his writing at or connect with him on Twitter via @vincerobisch.

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5 comments on “Can Digital Agencies Survive as PR Agencies Move in on their Turf?

  1. I’d say it’s a little bit of both — PR agencies encroaching on digital agencies, while digital agencies are starting to dive more into PR/marketing online. The lines are blurring and it’s going to be really interesting to see how it all shakes out. Survival of the smartest.

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