The rise of specialists in PR and how to get paid three times
A few years ago, Brandon Wilson identified an opportunity in the PR industry and adjusted the practices at his agency, Wilbron Inc., accordingly. “What has happened over time is that [the PR industry’s] doubling down on training professionals to be generalists has left the door open for corporations to start hiring specialists,” says Brandon in his interview for PR Profiles. “For example, if I want to get into the banking industry, I will hire financial experts or if I want to get into the utility industry, I will hire people who understand energy. Lo and behold, this has started to chip away at the appetite—not the need because the need for public relations expertise is as high as it’s probably ever been—of our prospects to make the kinds of investments that we deserve as public relations professionals.”
In response to this trend, Brandon created two divisions at his firm: Wilbron Education and Wilbron Health. These divisions are populated by teams of professionals who have a deep understanding of the industry and its stakeholders and their needs. “Those are two examples of how we have taken quite seriously the suggestion from customers that they want public relations and communication strategies that are far more specific than what they have been provided over the past 30 years,” says Brandon. “And we think that that is the wave of the future of our industry.”
At Wilbron, the guiding star is “for good.” This star decides everything Brandon and his team do, from which clients they represent to which projects they take on. “For anything to be considered for good, it must do three things,” says Brandon. “It must promote ethical business practices; it must positively impact communities; and finally, it must positively change the life of the ordinary person.”
Such a goal requires a special approach. Before work ever begins with a new client, Brandon and his team challenge the prospect’s “ability and audacity to scale their thinking and to scale their ambitions.” Following this initial conversation, Brandon provides clients with management consultancy and connects them to Wilbron’s product, RICA. “We provide them with Research, Insights, Connectivity, and Collaboration and introduce them to our ecosystem of other high-performing leaders, organizations and corporations,” says Brandon. “And then we provide them with a list of really big and audacious activations that if they concentrated all of their efforts on these things or just one of them, they could achieve something big to make our world better.” It’s only after these preliminary steps that Brandon supports the execution of the activation through public relations.
Determining whether these audacious activations have achieved their goals requires specificity. “We match everything we do with a measurable objective,” says Brandon. “We want to be very specific with them, even though they want to change the whole world, we say, ‘Let’s start with a city’. And that maybe can become the microcosm or the MVP of what we do in other cities and other countries. We want to be time sensitive. We want to talk about over what duration of time do you want to change this thing? And in doing so, we understand that by that time these things change, and we know what rubric we’re measuring it by, so that each of our customers can look back at the result of the work that they’ve done with us and be able to clearly see a difference.”
Seeing the measurable change is one of the three ways Brandon says—both with humor and genuine feeling—that they get paid at Wilbron. “We enjoy the work that we do so much because it is so purposeful that we get paid by knowing that we’re making the world better,” says Brandon. “We get paid a second time when they say, ‘man, you got to know about this company called Wilbron’. And then their friends and people in their network calls us and say, ‘Hey, I want to work with Wilbron.’ And then we get paid when our invoices get satisfied.”