Open and outward-looking: how Acumen Republic is relevant 36 years on
As the traditional silos of PR, creative, media planning, and digital collide and fragment, one agency has quietly held its place in our changing agency landscape; Acumen Republic has been looking after some of our most prestigious brands for more than 35 years, and is going from strength to strength. CEO Adelle Keely shares her thoughts on how Acumen maintains relevancy, especially in such changing times.
Where does Acumen Republic sit in the current agency landscape of New Zealand? How do you define yourselves?
Keely: We’re an integrated corporate and marketing communications agency that evolves, promotes and protects brands. As one of the larger PR agencies (around 30 in our team) that has been around for a while, we enjoy all the good things that come with scale - such as genuine experts in our team, breadth of services, diversity of people, capacity and resilience. We also have access to global best-practice through our Edelman relationship. Our clients value that we operate in both Auckland and Wellington so have a rounded New Zealand perspective, and we understand the relevance of Government policy.
Interestingly, we are sometimes known more for our corporate capability than our brand and marketing work, although our consumer brand client line-up substantial. We’re unique in that we’re independently owned by an employee trust bringing a commercially-minded attitude – our team instinctively treats client businesses as if they were our own.
We are fortunate to work with some of the best businesses, brands and people in New Zealand – we’ve worked hard to earn this position and work even harder to keep it.
And how do you maintain relevance after 36 years?
By being open to change and the opportunity it brings. Some changes we’ve made have been deliberate, others have been more incremental and some purely opportunistic.
We try to be open and outward- looking. We read, listen, ask lots of questions, and access the good stuff our global Edelman relationship brings, we’re active in industry, business, community and consumer groups, and are lucky enough to work with a lot of smart people. We routinely discuss the insights we get from all of this and apply it to ourselves and our clients.
We take care to work on the business as well as in it – we have regular meetings to discuss trends and disruption, we engage leadership coaches to challenge us and also seek feedback from our team.
We’re relatively self-critical and make time to reflect on how to do better. Operating in a highly competitive market keeps us all on our toes, which is a good thing.
What change are you seeing in the industry currently?
The impact of digital is clearly huge, alongside increasing complexity and the sheer pace of change. The geo-political environment is quite extraordinary, is perplexing and brings uncertainty.
The pace of change means that communications is more highly valued than in the past. Increasingly, we’re brought on to simplify complexity, or to nd ways to engage people in stuff they don’t know or care about but probably should because it will affect them in some way.
There are high expectations around transparency – we’ve seen some fall-out around this with influencers not being up-front about what they are getting paid for.
Our biggest growth area is in business advice. Our clients are looking for trusted partners to help them navigate through disruption and change, an increasing expectation to contribute to social good and an overall erosion in trust. They value our independent, strategic, creative approach, our network and our understanding of how businesses, government, consumers, communities and the media all interact.
A lot hasn’t changed – people have a finite amount of attention, we want to have relationships with people and brands that we like and trust, and we know when someone isn’t being straight with us.
So what makes Acumen Republic different?
We are sure of ourselves and our purpose – to make our clients more successful in their ambitions.
Understanding both marketing and corporate communications and not treating them in isolation. Our clients engage us because we know how trust, brand, marketing, corporate and reputation all work together.
Another big factor is the depth and diversity of our collective experience. More than half of our team has 10+ years’ of experience so we’re highly strategic, creative and commercial... and we’re constantly learning from our people with less experience!
We have a strong network and many of our clients have chosen to stay with us for a long time.