This interview first appeared in Media Update.
Two years ago, communications expert Emma King realised she didn’t want to play it safe anymore. By then, she had been working in PR for 15 years. First, it was in London for a number of major brands. Following that, it was in corporate communications and for an ad agency in South Africa. She was comfortable. But she knew that PR could be done differently. Or even done better.
“I’ve worked with big integrated agencies and especially the ones that have been around a long time,” says King. These are the agencies that are built around a business model that was created 20 years ago and are made up of huge teams of people, taking six months to do a TV ad. It worked then when there were big campaigns. However, King was finding that more clients were looking for something that was both quicker and more nimble.
And so, in 2015, King decided to give these clients what they needed, which led to the formation of The Friday Street Club.
Defined as a creative communications company with roots in PR, digital, and social, the boutique agency, through King, is striving to find new ways of communicating. “A lot of other PR’s are stuck in their old school way of working, which is very much about sending out a press release or maybe doing an event,” says King. But this isn’t the future of PR.
Instead, the future lies in understanding that PR can be, and achieve, more. “It’s understanding that you can create a reputation or build a relationship with someone – which is what PR is – through a number of things,” says King. In fact, everything is an opportunity. It’s from the moment you walk into a store and what your logo looks like, to your website and how well it functions. It could even be an event or through something that you read in the news.
King’s point is that there really shouldn’t be any limits when it comes to PR. At least there doesn’t have to be. Some clients may want standard service, a press release or two a month, says King, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, it means that as a PR agency, you can become comfortable.
“But what if PR could be more than that?” asks King. “Why can’t it be a pop-up event? Why not take on branding and work out brand communication? Why don’t you come up with an idea which other agencies – be that digital or advertising – usually come up with?”
These aren’t absurd questions to ask. Or even to consider. King believes that PR agencies are just as capable as advertising agencies are of being the lead agency. “If done right, I don’t see why a PR agency can’t be a lead agency,” agrees King. It’s not happening yet – a few things will need to change before it does – but it’s possible. After all, PR agencies have an understanding of strategy and communications, and, more often than not, of what customers want.
In short, they are in prime position.
To do this successfully though, PR’s to need to have an understanding of a variety of disciplines. “Even if you aren’t necessarily a designer or a web developer, you must understand enough of it to talk about it confidently,” explains King. And this is where she believes The Friday Street Club can play a pivotal role; “Fortunately, my background in corporate comms and working in an ad agency have allowed me to be able to talk on a functional level about a number of things.”
This means King is happy enough to talk about websites and coding as well as about any design or strategic process should the need arise. It doesn’t mean, however, that The Friday Street Club will be the pioneers. King’s happy for others to do that and to collaborate with them. However, she does aim to run an agency that is not afraid of challenging any PR boundaries. Or of searching for better ways to communicate.