Nick Cowling Talks New Agency Owners And Future Of Public Relations

Members Of The Canadian Marketing & Public Relations Industry Share COVID-19 Vaccine PSA

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Nick CowlingThere were some big changes with Citizen Relations last week that you probably heard about such as here and here.  PR In Canada took a moment to catch up with Nick Cowling, President of Citizen Relations Global [TCO] to dig deeper into some of these changes and what it means for the agency.

Quite a week for Citizen Relations, I see there is a new holding company. What does this mean for Citizen Relations? For the sister agencies?

We’re all really excited about this at Citizen. This new partnership with CVC and CDPQ will give the whole network of agencies the financial, relationship and human capital it needs to exponentially advance its expansion and transformation strategy.

You have always been a big data guy, how does data fit into a new holding company’s future direction?

Clients are driving the demand for increased digital marketing and communications services and more transparent, business-focused outcomes. In our new ownership structure and with the introduction of CVC and CDPQ, investing in talent, next generation tech-enabled and data capabilities will provide endless opportunities for our clients around the world.

What is a CCO doing working for a PR agency?

Josh is here to increase the consistency and quality of our creative product across our network. Together, we’re focused on developing a creative organization, not an organization with a creative department. We launched a new mission in April 2020 – Make Every Conversation Count – as we’ve implemented our transformation roadmap, it became clear that our creative product and content were critical in being able to design the conversations our clients need to achieve their objectives. So securing a talent like Josh, we’ve bolstered the team and our capability, but we’ve also added a leader who committed to driving the vision.

Is this a sign that PR is changing? If so, why?

Public Relations, like every industry, continues to change, and it should. It’s not uncommon these days for a PR shop to have a creative leader. Some have done it to get more ‘advertising mandates’, but that’s not our goal. We need great ideas to drive conversations that will lead to the outcomes our clients want. It’s not about impressions or engagements, it’s about the measurable changes in attitude or behaviour or causing an action or a transaction – that’s what great conversations do.

What should marketers do as they prepare for a post-pandemic world? What challenge do marketers face moving forward?

I could share a lot of thoughts regarding the future. One that I feel strongly about is the need for a rebalancing of Purpose Marketing. In my opinion, the past campaigns that have been applauded have been way more marketing than purpose or impact. From what I’ve seen, people aren’t interested in that any longer – their filter is more finite – companies need to inspire and create solutions and if they aren’t then either be ignored or worse, call out for the ‘washing’.

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