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Design is a Must for Public Relations’ Future

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August 8, 2018 – Brenda Jones Barwick, APR, President and CEO

This is a conversation that did not largely exist in public relations agencies 10 years ago. How design is impacting the public relations industry.


As technology continues evolving as the driver of communications platforms to position more messages before eyeballs and while attention spans for reading decreases, design is imperative to communicate our clients’ messages across a crowded landscape.


Five years ago, we paid a junior employee to take creative classes at a local community college to meet requests for creative services. At the time, our need was only for 3-4 clients. Today, our creative team includes two full-time employees who are providing design for nearly every client.


As design becomes integrated into public relations and an expectation from clients, agencies need to provide creative services to be competitive, especially with ad agencies.
As an Executive Committee member of Counselors Academy, a Public Relations Society of America section, I invited some agency owners to share their viewpoints on how design is impacting the public relations industry.


From Kate Snyder, Principal Strategist at Piper & Gold Public Relations in Lansing, MI, “In 2016, we added a Creative Strategist position and hired our first designer at the agency. Since, we’ve added an Assistant Creative Strategist as well. We’re a boutique agency, which I think shows the level and nature of integration with PR and design. Storytelling has always been a core part of PR. As the way people consume stories becomes more visual, we must learn to communicate in the language of visual storytelling. PR is about changing hearts, minds and lives. Strategic visual storytelling can have a massive positive impact on our ability to shift attitudes, perceptions and behaviors.”


From Catriona Harris, CEO of Uproar PR in Orlando, “The world of PR is changing as we have traditionally known it. With the rise of social media and the changing behaviors of consumers, I believe it is imperative that we utilize design for our needs.  As an agency, we brought design in-house in 2017 as we saw these changes coming full force.  Our design department now works hand and hand with our media relations and social media teams to look at how we can strategically impact our overall client campaigns by adding visual elements from the design team.  Sometimes it something as simple as a graphic to accompany a pitch to reporters that helps visualize the story – other times it is much more complex with an overall design campaign that complements the entire work we are doing for a client.”


From Alice Pearson Chapman, Partner of MP&F in Nashville, “Design has become a critical element of the work we are doing for clients. More often than not, we are telling client stories through digital media, and it’s no longer enough to just post a stock image. My company is fortunate to have an eight-person design shop. A change we made this year is to include a designer in team meetings from the outset of a project. This small change has helped our staff, the majority of whom are not designers, to visualize messages and think about new ways to communicate with the audiences we are trying to reach.”


The common theme is that design is a must-have service in order to meet the needs of clients and to remain competitive in the integrated marketing world. If your agency has not yet started design services, start small with a part-time person or a junior employee, then watch it build as design becomes a growth area for your agency.


Originally posted on PRSA.

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