GolinHarris Launches New Agency Model

PRevolve. The Future of PR at GH from GolinHarris on Vimeo.

GolinHarris has introduced g4, the firm’s new global agency model designed to function in a digital and social media world. With the model, the firm will be changing its business over the next decade, providing services not just in earned media but, according to the firm’s president and CEO Fred Cook, “equally distributed” across earned, shared, owned, and purchased media.

“If you started an agency today, you wouldn’t structure it the way a traditional firm is structured,” Cook told PRNewser as he was heading out to join the firm’s day of community service to celebrate founder Al Golin’s birthday. “We felt we had to move to something a little more streamlined and in tune with what’s happening in the outside world.”

Under the g4 model, practice areas remain but staff titles change. Employees are now divided into four groups: strategists, who use data and research to serve as business analysts; creators, who are the idea generators and storytellers; connectors, who function as the channel experts, reaching audiences via more than a dozen “touch points”; and catalysts, who use best practices, partnerships, and other methods to keep clients ahead of the curve. Everyone will be working on what Cook called a “Facebook-style portal” that will allow them to collaborate around the globe, around the clock. The firm has also launched a new website to reflect g4.

Within those groups, staffers will now have titles like social media specialists and community managers, giving up age-old monikers like VP. Cook said the firm is sensitive to the issues that come with these changes.

“We’ve been around for 56 years and people are used to a certain structure. And we have a lot of people working for 10 or 15 years and we’re trying to make sure everybody understands their new roles and titles,” he said.

Cook said the firm has done assessments to lay the foundation for this change, with staffers getting more and more used to it and clients across the spectrum of industries it serves (and will continue to serve) fully endorsing it.

Work began on the transformation 10 months ago and was spurred by a successful decade that got the agency thinking about the coming years. (Also, Cook told the New York Times, “I’m motivated partly by opportunity and partly by fear.”)

GH worked with outside management and HR consultants to create the g4 model. It will be rolled out today in the U.S. and U.K. followed by Europe in two months and Asia by year’s end. Cook said it’ll take another six months to a year before everything is fully in place.

“But this is the company we want to be going forward, so we’ll be enhancing and refining it,” he added.

To institute this sort of widespread change, Cook said the firm has the benefit of being collaborative by nature and being the right size. With about 700 people worldwide, “we’re a lot smaller than say Fleishman or Edelman, but big enough to have the resources to do it,” he said.

However, the firm’s goal for the future is to double in size over the next ten years.

“We’ve done a lot to link people globally. So we’re hoping this will enhance our culture and the collaboration we already have,” Cook said.