Apr 18

An Industry in Trouble? CEO of Group Lark Lays out How the PR Industry Can Gain Relevance Again

Arthur W. Page Society

PAGE SOCIETY SPRING SEMINAR – APRIL 2o14Andy Lark believes the PR profession is in trouble. In a speech to members of the Page Society on the second day of Spring Seminar, Lark, CEO of Group Lark and Former Chief Marketing and Online Officer at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, argued that the lack of innovation in the industry, particularly as it relates to digital and mobile, is threatening to make the profession irrelevant.

“We as communicators love straight lines,” he said. And as a result, the industry has remained stagnant while channels, consumption models, screens, trust sources and recommenders all changed around it.

Lark contends that communicators must “embrace the squiggly line,” learn to deal better with uncertainty and get “wound up,” continually refining what he calls the five Ps:

  • Participate – Lark encouraged the audience to become the chief “content” officer of their organization, saying that communicators are best positioned to generate content within their organization.
  • Place – Content and messaging needs to work for an audience while they’re doing something else. We have moved from an “attention economy to an intention economy,” and communicators need to reorient communications so it’s better to reach a target audience. His message: “exit the traditional PR swim lane, and start to understand the rest of the functions.”
  • Predict – It was a common theme throughout the two-day conference, but Lark again stressed the importance of data and making connections between data to answer questions. “A seat at the table doesn’t matter if you don’t bring anything to the table.”
  • Play – Communications is about engagement, and PR professionals should be experts on engagement, gamification and how people interact.
  • And finally, Pursue your Purpose – Purpose drives brands. He urged PR professionals to be guardians of purpose for clients and companies.

In a conversation with Jim Wilkinson, Executive Vice President, Communications, PepsiCo, following his presentation, the two discussed how communicators can avoid being seen as just a commodity.

It’s about passion, Lark said, and if communications is your passion you should pursue it. But also make the business and operations a part of your education process so that PR can drive value for the business. Become best friends with the CMO or the CFO, and get out and spend time with the business unit leaders who drive growth and sales.

“PR shouldn’t confine itself to communications,” said Lark. “It should be a growth engine for the business.”

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