Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Philip Letts, founder of the creative services exchange blur Group, discusses how the PR industry can benefit from his plans to level the playing field in the way it sources new agencies and teams to work with.
Could you start by telling us how blur is relevant to the PR community?
Very simple - it provides new business opportunities from companies that you'd never have access to otherwise. Everyone knows that it's harder to find new opportunities and win them - here it's a level playing field, and new opportunities are just arriving directly to you - and you don't even need to dress up to make your pitch.
If I was in the in-house PR team of a national newspaper, launching a new magazine campaign, where would I start utilising the powers of blur to help me with my campaign?
You could use blur Group for any or all of that project. You might want to bring in some expertise to use social media to promote the launch for example - the beauty of using the Exchange is that you can break any project up into its constituent parts and get the best resources for each component. You might want to commission some really good writers - from the UK and beyond. Again - the brief can go out with very specific project requirements, timeline and budget. And of course that launch campaign could end up coming in way below the original budget if you make use of the Exchange. As an example we recently had a brief from a magazine to design a whole new layout for a special tradeshow edition - from brief to project kickoff was less than two days - not bad given it also coincided with the Jubilee weekend.
So how do you ensure quality control?
That's very much the role of Exchange Support. We monitor right through to the completion of the project - any issues we resolve (we've not had them!). But that could extend to slotting in a direct replacement!
Who is using blur so far?
We have briefs that come from countries all over the world (although the US and UK are the largest regions) and from companies ranging from a small startup through to large businesses - Zurich Insurance, the AA, Berlitz. As an example for PR briefs - we currently have a company that's developed social media analytics software who want help with their launch release, and a new financial comparison business wanting to find a PR partner to help them with both PR and social projects.
How do you feel about the PR industry – could we learn any lessons from other parts of the marketing mix?
I think the main thing is that PR, of all the marketing experts represented on the Exchange, tend to find it hardest to embrace the project model. Of course that's understandable in terms of needing to be up close and personal to get the best results for a customer, but there are plenty of businesses who would like to run that one-off project and almost evaluate the agency on that basis. So PRs perhaps have to be willing to be tested this way and look at how these are opportunities. It's also part of our DNA that PR is now firmly within the digital and social spheres so PR has to look at how any story has impact across all channels - from blogger outreach to social take up and comment - and of course if those skills aren't within the current mix, then they have a way to get them conveniently...
So many creatives across the world... How did you get individuals to sign up for it and make them see the mutual benefit?
We led on community and content - good content made experts want to be part of the community - their own social network of their peers where they can share ideas and experience. Then we added in the ability to win new business as we started to take briefs in 2010, so of course that was the final piece in the equation to make people want to join up and join in.
With setting up the product, you were in a position to see the media/marketing landscape in all its various shapes and sizes – how is it looking globally?
Surprisingly healthy - thanks mostly to the growing endorsement of digital. What we have become increasingly aware of though is that marketing is becoming more under scrutiny - campaigns have to deliver, and to a less extravagant budget. We saw this recently with a customer who used one of the best known agencies last year for their video advertising - this year they didn't want to pay for the fluff so briefed us. Marketing/media is increasingly going through the same procurement processes to ensure best efficiency and prices - and we're in a position to capitalize on this. The provision of services still hasn't caught up with what many brands and businesses want - that's where we fit in - giving a digital, global solution to them.
Where did the idea for blur Group come from?
On a September weekend in 2007, I designed a Social website from my garage what I called an "experiment": what would happen if all the b2b experts in the world had equal access to a single place where they could pitch for business - one global exchange???
And your background?
I am an innovator and have been a leader in international Internet ventures and tech enabled media and marketplaces plays for 20 years, including at Tradaq and beenz.com
What is the ultimate goal for blur Group?
To change industries so that everyone benefits - suppliers and buyers. We want to flatten the buy cycle so that meritocracy rules, and everyone has the chance to do business with everyone.
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