David Blain

Saxton Home


Brent Johnson

Hollands Hart, LLP


Jeff Olsen



Bill Brady



Haley McLennan



Chuck Penna

Penna Powers


Mike Chase

Chase Marketing Group


Andrew Melchior

Avalaunch Media


Pauline Ploquin



Brad Plothow

Method Communications


Ted Roxbury



Kelly Shelton



Todd Wolfenbarger

The Summit Group



What would you say was the biggest change that has taken place in

our industry in the last 12 to 18 months?


In the last five to seven years, PR has completely changed. We

spent a lot of time training to be journalists so we could run stuff

through a gatekeeper and hope that we found interest. Now we spend as

much time publishing as we do pitching stories. Content marketing has

really dramatically changed the way public relations professionals

work--you not only have to be a great writer, you have to be able to see

things visually. You have to be able to tell a story visually, and you

have to be able to edit.

~ Todd Wolfenbarger

WOLFENBARGER: What we've learned is you have to be curious. If

you're not curious, you're not going to survive in this

industry because it's evolving. And that's what makes it fun.

It's reinvented every year; it's something different. If

you're curious, it feels like a toy box. And if you're not, it

feels like a dentist chair.

SHELTON: Google, search engines, are a game changer. It's

really how consumers find products and services now. The key in search

is understanding intent--why someone is visiting a site or using their

mobile device--and then matching your content around that intent,

matching your experience around that intent. Search has changed the

landscape for the better. Consumers are in charge. They're

empowered more than ever. So it's not just about just selling,

selling, selling. It's about answering questions, it's about

providing resources.

ROXBURY: Over the last five to seven years there's been an

increasing amount of fragmentation within the marketplace, specifically

digital, where consumers are shifting from search to social to apps to

online/offline experiences. But over the last 12 to 18 months,

we're starting to see that fragmentation disappear from technology.

We're starting to see more integration across the consumer

experience, regardless of device or platform or medium or engagement

type. So, for example, you can interact with a customer on social, then

on search, and then maybe through a call center or a store, and you can

integrate all that data together and create one single experience.

MELCHIOR: Probably the biggest overall change is the lack of time

the consumer is willing to give you to share your message. Where you

used to have maybe minutes, now you have seconds. So you have to convey

your message in a very quick format. That's why visual content has

become so prevalent. You have sites out there like Instagram and

Pinterest that are really driving the market now, and that's what

we try to cater to for our clients.

BRADY For me it's the pervasiveness of mobile technology, the

bandwidth that you get in mobile now and the ubiquity of devices. Half

of adults in the states own tablets now. So it's tablets and

phones. Whereas it was once a big deal to have an experience that was

responsive and cater to that, now it's gone to a whole other level

where people are expecting content that's catered to exactly what

they need in that moment. That's a big opportunity for marketers.

CHASE: One of the biggest changes is the accountability that comes

from digital. Digital forces us to be accountable to the client on one

hand, but one of the great things you can do with that accountability is

very seriously reach out and target a consumer much easier than you

could, much more cost efficiently than you could. So you can still

create your brand, on the one hand, but on the other hand be accountable

to the client as well. One of the challenges of being accountable is if

you haven't done your homework. One of the good things about being

accountable is if you have, you can make changes almost instantaneously.

PLOTHOW: In the last 12 to 18 months, the rate of change is

increasing in such pronounced way. So the interval between the next

wrenching change is getting smaller and smaller. You also have this

proliferation of channels. We've talked about content marketing

being this self-publishing platform for brands in addition to your

traditional earned media and paid media channels.

The other thing that is really significant and changing rapidly is

the expectation that started with Web 2.0 and now has really come to

fruition of consumers and customers being participants in the brand and

feeling like they have a stake in the company and what it means and what

it delivers, whether or not they're shareholders. So engagement

with customers and the expectation of them being part and parcel of the

conversation around what the brand means and its relevance is here.

BLAIN: When you go from a finely crafted 30-second spot to a

six-second video, it has tons of implications in how you plan

strategically, in what you surround that content with, in how you target

that content. There's just so many implications to that

compression: compression of time, compression of content, compression of

thinking. Everything happens so much faster. That's probably driven

an enormous amount of change n everything that we do.

OLSEN: Everything from custom content and the way that's

delivered now, the accountability, to how that's

measured--it's everything I call the automated marketing platform.

What hasn't changed is you've still got to be interesting.

You've still got to engage in a way that's somebody says,

"Oh, wow, I want to look at that," whether it's six

seconds or 30 seconds or two seconds in a Instagram post. That's

where agencies can shine, that's where our expertise comes to

fruition, is being interesting and being engaging in a way that

consumers resonate with and want to be a part of, regardless of how

it's measured or whether it's on my tablet or mobile device or

through word of mouth on social media.

PLOQUIN: Forester predicted we were ushering ourselves into the age

of the customer, and that's what we're all talking about--the

empowered customer and, indeed, all of the implications that means from

the variety of devices that our customers are engaging with. What's

been interesting for us has been the rise of the user experience because

of the age of the customer and how important that is to really

understand what they are experiencing along the consumer path. And

really intriguing as well is this move from eyeballs to experiences.

It's not just about a visual cue, it's about that actual

physical experience. We're seeing brands move from just a digital

experience to actual physical experiences, which is really unique and

interesting. So what does this mean for an agency, what is our role? We

see our role as to really help our brands make an emotional connection

with consumers.

MCLENNAN: All of our brands have so many additional touch points of

people they're trying to influence. What's important and what

we keep coming back to is that the messages that go through all of those

channels need to be complementary and integrated, and they need to be

right on brand strategy, and they need to come back to that home base of

who you are, what you're trying to do. That's tricky, because

if you're doing things in silos, sometimes the message is not right

or they're not complementary. So it comes back to creating a

foundational strategy, really understanding who your audience is, what

they're looking for, and how they want to get that information.

JOHNSON: As a lawyer, I monitor change in the advertising marketing

industry based upon two metrics. First metric is the regulatory activity

in that area. The second metric is the class action Lanham action, which

is private actions against companies based upon the claims that they

make. And in the last 18 months, there has been a dramatic increase in

regulatory activity and litigation in two principle areas: e-commerce

and functionality claims. When you only have six seconds to convey a

message now, you tend to want to hit key words, and key words equal

claims and claims are where the FTC gets involved and the lawsuits


So functionality claims of any kind, whether or not something is

"green," for example--the FTC has come up this year with green

guidelines. If you're going to make a claim that your product is

recyclable or anything else that relates to the environment, you better

know those guidelines because the FTC will come down on you.

This year Blue Buffalo settled a major Lanham case brought by

Purina over their claim that their dog food did not contain byproducts,

but also spun off a number of class actions by pet owners that Blue

Buffalo also had to settle. The notion here is we're now

constricted in advertising to a very short time frame, we need to

differentiate our product. Consumers are demanding functionality in

their products more and more. And yet all of those factors create a

perfect storm where if we're not careful, we end up making claims

that result in more trouble than they're worth.


Are you having to adapt to other psychological or sociological

changes that have affected your business?


Consumers are shifting more and more toward third-party reviews of

products and services. There's an increased demand for consumers to

get the official review or the official low-down on a brand or service

before they buy it. So with that, we've decided to start building

our own sites and content outside of the brands that help users makes a

decision about which product or service or brand they should use.

~ Ted Roxbury

MCLENNAN: Just thinking about roles within a B2B environment, where

you have different decision makers and technology has changed the way

they do their job. Those lines are getting crossed, and people are

taking on new roles and responsibilities and trying to stay relevant

there. What are they looking for, how do you create an experience?

That's changing so much on the internal, business side. So keeping

up with changes in decision makers' roles and trying to figure out

how to create content and reach audiences that cross over in terms of

interests and agendas has been an interesting change.

PLOTHOW: We work with B2B clients, too. They are not as interested

in having very transactional relationships with the companies they do

business with. They want to believe in them, too. This has always been

the case, but I think people are getting more tribal about this. They

want to resonate not just to your value proposition and the speeds and

feeds and how you stack up against competitors, but what do you stand

for? What are the ideas that resonate with them? There's an

alignment that they're looking for philosophically.

JOHNSON: I always like to be able to buy products that have been

extensively reviewed. Nevertheless, there are questions as to how the

review got to that site: Who wrote it? Was there any compensation

associated with it? How did it get generated? And more and more

we're starting to see the beginnings of FTC regulation and

litigation associated with online reviews. People claiming they were

misled into believing a product had benefits or values that it

didn't have based upon reviews that were not

"legitimate," however you want to define that. So obviously

reviews are very important because they're a subject of litigation

and also the subject of regulation.

WOLFENBARGER: I have a 21-year-old daughter who buys stuff online

and she always looks at reviews. I said to her, "Do you know where

those coming from?" She said, "No, but I know that they

don't work for the company." That to her was a big deal. I

think it's because she views the people who are on the site as

being helpful versus selling to her. That's what marketers have got

to get their head around. They have to trust that being helpful is

really the way things are sold, not by hammering on people. My daughter

will find somebody she doesn't know who she thinks is helpful over

a company that probably knows 10 times more about their product and why

she really should be interested.

MELCHIOR: Consumers care more about brand ambassadors than what the

CMOs say all day long.

CHASE: Which is interesting because we have a client in San Diego

who has discovered that a lot of the negative reviews that they are

getting right now are from their competitor. People that have been hired

within the competitor.

JOHNSON: To show how prevalent is it, there's a bill in the

U.S. Senate to prevent companies from having anti-negative clauses in

their contracts. So, for instance, the most famous case right now is

around a company that rents people's homes out for them in resort

communities. And the individuals themselves would enter into a contract

with the lessee, which would say you can't post a negative review

on this website regarding the property, and they'll still get a

negative review posted. There have actually been lawsuits over that. The

U.S. Senate has viewed this as a significant enough impediment on free

speech that there's a bill that will prevent people from entering

into those kinds of contracts or asking for them.

ROXBURY: I think Amazon is doing a very good job with their

verified purchase. So basically they're letting anybody review, but

they're saying this person actually bought this product.

That's a good first step to gain that consumer trust.


How are you positioning your company to meet the challenges of the

next two years?


In preparing for the future there are three things we're

looking at: data, data and data. When I got into this business, it was

really the art of marketing and it's really become the science of

marketing, of understanding behavior in predictive analytics and being

able to look at what's happening and then plug that back in and

respond to that. So using data to make decisions to craft messages, to

reach audiences.

~ David Blain

PLOTHOW: I'm on the agency side, so what I look at is a lot of

consolidation. You've seen a ton of proliferation of the

advertising shops, the PR shops. It used to be those were your choices.

Now you have this entire integrated marketing, digital marketing middle

ground. You have analytics to prove the value and merchandise the

results of those kinds of activities. And all of these things have been

fertile ground for startups and for companies to grow businesses. They

need to coexist, though, in a more integrative way. We're seeing

that clients increasingly do want a central strategy.

And then you think about all of these paid earned and owned

channels as channels for delivery of message and engagement of clients,

and it makes a lot more sense to have those things integrated from the

start, including the analytics, and doing the research on the front end

to inform your hypothesis that it doesn't have these things living

disparately. So I think a lot of consolidation is in our future.

OLSEN: We're taking a big step into becoming more strategic

partners of these big companies. What they're really looking for is

the expertise and strategy in creative execution, because the

implementation is becoming table stakes. Everybody is going to become

content generators, everybody is going to become distributors in a way.

And so our next big step is to really become the trusted strategic

partner, where we can sit at the sea level and say, "based on what

we see, all the analytics, all the information, here's the key

insights, here's the key consumer behaviors that indicate where we

can go, where the messaging is going to get to, and what's going to

resonate and connect emotionally with these consumers that are your


CHASE: One of the challenges our long-time clients are going

through is they want to be part of the new digital media, not just the

traditional. But some of the traditional has been very successful for

them. They're trying to figure out where do we go next? One of the

things they're asking us to figure out is how do we not become

diluted in our budgets, because now there's so many places that we

can go. Are we going to dilute our message? Are we going to dilute our

presentation to a customer? So what we're doing more and more, even

with the traditional media, is we're trying to be as accountable as

we can to the dollar because they will spend the money if they can track

the return on that investment.

PENN A: Just attended a conference on digital strategy. And a CMO

said the thing they used to tell agencies is speed, quality, price. You

get two. And now we all want faster, cheaper, faster. So if agencies

can't deliver that, they're not going to be around. That goes

back to agencies becoming content factories. Clients expect agencies to

move fast.

DISHMAN: As you're having to create more content marketing, do

your costs go up?

PENNA: It's a challenge, it really is. Agencies have had to

become production companies. We used to farm all of that out. Clients

want you to have all those tools so that you can put the right package

together. If you're missing a key component, that's a concern

to a client now. Why wouldn't you recommend that? Well, because we

don't have it. It's really important to be that integrated

communications company always ahead of technology.

BRADY: As we're preparing for the future, our next big hires

will be marketing information officer people--people that have the

mindset of a CMO but the technical ability of a CIO. And people that can

take the great work that we do in targeting, positioning and messaging

and go deeper than we've ever gone before in analytics and

automation and really tracking content to every user business marketing and showing the ROI

from that.


How are you providing proof of ROI to your clients and potential

clients? Are you using different techniques than you used a few years



For us it's easy. We bill our clients on an acquisition model.

So every time we get with a customer they pay us a commission. So

it's black or white.

~ Ted Roxbury

DISHMAN: What about customer retention?

ROXBURY: That's what we're working on--layering in the

customer support, customer care, technical support side of things,

having some type of incentive for a long-term retention. Again, our

model there is performance based. It's about how long that customer

stays. It's a fee per year if the customer stays with our client.

BRADY: For clients that have the interest and the budget, we do

brand awareness, name recognition, favorability studies. Most clients

would say they like that information but aren't willing to pay for

it. Anything that's digital, that's been the biggest boon to

marketers--the shift to a digital-first approach where things are much

more trackable and we can show immediate cause and effect. We're

not like Clearlink, we're not performance based on everything. But

when it makes sense, we do have performance-based accounts where this

acquisition, this sale equals dollars to us and that's how we get


PLOTHOW: We're at the finesse end of the marketing umbrella,

where we're really integrated into the story-telling aspects of the

brand. So it is an elusive thing for us. There's no silver bullet

in terms of how we demonstrate the value and track the return on

investment. But the biggest thing we've seen in PR in particular

(integrated marketing is a little different), is the share of voice. So

we'll cut up the conversation into a pie, show a client what they

have currently, and track over time how it's growing. People want

to know how much of a conversation they're owning.

MCLENNAN : From our point of view, we're divided fairly evenly

in two buckets. Brand awareness--we do a lot research around that. So

focus groups, surveys, going back to talking to customers--we're

engaging in more traditional primary research to ensure that the

platforms and messages we're putting together are on point

immediately and will be pertinent in the future. And on the digital end,

we're looking at traditional metrics for all things

website-related, email, automation, social, etc.

PENNA : We always sit down with a new client and say: How do you

measure success? What's the metric we want to create together? That

has changed over years, but the one thing that hasn't changed is

ROI. Do they feel like they're getting value of what they're


BLAIN: If I'm running a search campaign, it's pretty easy

to see what I'm getting. My cost per click is pretty easy to

measure. But what about the behavior after that? What about the shopping

cart that goes all the way to a sale? You can measure everything along

that continuum. And you can get caught up in measurement for

measurement's sake too. Really, I think Chuck said it well: What

does the client want? What does success look like to the client, and are

we working with them to achieve what they want? Are we moving the needle

for their business?

WOLFEN BARGER: If you have clients who understand how they sell,

and they're measuring on how they sell, that helps us a lot. We do

a lot of work for T Mobile retail stores all over the country and our

assignment is pretty basic: get people into their stores. They actually

have door counts, and we get those reports daily. They have their own

closing percentages around that. Once you're in, we're kind of


Marketing today is about thought leadership. That's what

really great people who specialize in public relations have come to

understand. If we can help convince people of what they instinctively

know, that being helped in their decision-making feels right and being

trusted feels right. That's where that finesse part of the

marketing spectrum comes into play, and it helps it get to the ultimate

empirical thing--if you can deliver a customer back to somebody.

We're going to have to play in all that, because it is about

accountability right now. People will pay for really great marketers,

and they will spit out the ones that say, "Hey, we think we're

really helping out." Doesn't work anymore.

OLSEN : We have a very astute internal analytics department, a

whole department dedicated to providing dashboards, typically on a

weekly basis, but sometimes on a daily basis. The value we add beyond

just the reporting and analytics is giving insights on what it means,

what is the experience? What are the key measurables? Doing that in a

holistic way becomes very important.

We had a client on the West Coast, and they were doing everything.

It was a total integrated campaign, including traditional

direct-response television. And yet what they were finding was nobody

was responding to the direct-response television. But on the other end,

their sales were doing fantastic. They dropped the DRTV and all the

sudden the sales dropped down. What was actually happening is every business promotion products time

the direct response TV traditional media was running, their organic

Google search would go through the roof, and nobody had put those pieces

together until we took a holistic approach.

But the bottom line is sales. If we're not moving product or

moving traffic, whatever the key measurable fact is, then the marketing

is not working and it has to be accountable. But not just the

analytics--the key insights to what the analytics means are what become

very valuable.

MELCHIOR: Attribution is a really tricky thing in today's

marketing universe. Often if there are two things we're doing, we

don't know which one is working. It's so complex. You can

track those users from start to finish. But you don't know if they

first found out about you from a radio ad or a billboard or a TV

commercial or friend referring them or they read a review online. Your

consumer can hit your site, they can visit your Facebook page or Twitter

profile, read reviews, fill out a form, talk to a salesperson, then hit

a paper click ad and buy. And if you're focused on that last click

conversion, then your paper click campaign is what worked. But really,

there's a much bigger story that's being told there. And so

you need to spend time focusing on understanding that attribution, and

then putting those dollars where you see the conversions coming from.


We service primarily small businesses. We have analytics that show

traffic and last click attribution and rankings and likes and followers

and all those metrics that demonstrate, yes, the service is getting you

in front of people. We have our clients ask the person that called: Did

you see us on Facebook? How did you find us? How did you hear about us?

As simple as that is, it became the most powerful demonstration of ROI.

We could show your traffic gone through roof. You're now ranking

one for five different terms. And when the business owner actually

started asking the customer: How did you hear about us? Where did you

see us? You see me on Google? That then translated to the business

owner--this is working. I'm getting clients from this.

~ Kelly Shelton


If a business is thinking about hiring an ad agency, PR agency,

digital agency or an integrated agency, what would be the most

significant question they should ask of that service provider?


My single most important question would be "where do I

start?" If you can come up with somebody who can start to put you

in the right place to move forward, then great. But you're going to

get a reaction from people that's going to be telling about how

they treat your brand and how they think you should move forward.

~ Haley McLennan

BRADY: I would take it a step further and ask for quantifiable

examples showing you've helped people like me before. I want to

know as a potential buyer that you've produced results and can give

me a high level of trust that you can produce the results.

CHASE: Could you show me how you understand my business now and

what you think you can do to make a difference for my business?

BLAIN: Demonstrate your knowledge of my business. Because the more

knowledge you have of your client's business, the better

understanding you have of what makes their business work, the more

successful they're going to be in working with you.

PLOQUIN: Who are the people who are going to work on my business

and do I like them? Do we want to get along?

PLOTHOW: They should ask "what should I do." And then

they should see if I give them a prescription right off the bat or if I

ask questions of them. Because absent you having some prior conversation

with them, the answer to that question varies so much depending on what

they're trying to accomplish and the moment in their life cycle for

the company. There has to be fact-finding before you can answer that


MELCHIOR: Ask the agency to show three cultural elements of the

agency that are going to help them as a business owner accomplish their

goals. And I would want to know that the agency is extremely loyal and

that they're willing to fight to help that business owner win.

WOLFENBARGER: know where I would go deep on: It would absolutely be

about the people. I would say: Can you articulate to me what you hire

for and what you fire for? Can I tell you five things we look for. If

you're three of the five, you'll probably be able to hang;

four of the five you'll do well; five you're a star. If

you're two, you'll either spit us or we'll spit you out.

Every time I interview somebody to come work for us or every single

time we're in a pitch, I tell them what we hire for and what we

fire for. Because it's the combination of the skill set, the

expertise, the cultural elements of the agency, and just the chemistry

that comes from that fit. I never promise somebody you're going to

get the same people all the time. If you all know how to keep

28-year-old people from leaving jobs every 15 minutes, I'd be

interested in that, but I don't know how to do that. So what I tell

people is we know what we hire for and we know what we fire for.

ROXBURY: What happens if it doesn't work? If we enter into

this agreement and my volume or my sales go down, what happens? How

would I mitigate my risk of working with you or working with an agency?

OLSEN: Show me how you create a powerful emotional connection to

consumers. And they better start asking questions about those consumers

before they say, "Oh, here's how we do it."

JOHNSON: It wouldn't be my first question, but somewhere in

there I would ask: Do you promise that you always give it to me

straight? Companies that bring products or services to market are

excited about them. There's a reason they did it, there's a

benefit, there's something that's really important that

they're very proud of. And yet at times a company needs somebody to

tell them, "that pitch, that concept isn't really going to do

much for your bottom line." And the question is: Does it expose you

to risk? How much is that claim worth? And I wonder whether or not

advertisers are willing to give it to clients straight. When they hear

something and they think to themselves, that's not really going to

sell and it's kind of dangerous if the advertising company is

willing to say it. If they're not, then they don't really do

the customer much good.