Mat Wilcox Knows Where the Future Lies

Mat Wilcox shocked the B.C. corporate world when she decided to close her PR firm. Could it be that she has her eye clearly fixed on the future?

Wilcox PR closure, Vancouver PR
Did social media kill the PR star? The Wilcox closure has sent shockwaves through Vancouver’s PR industry.

Mat Wilcox shocked the B.C. corporate world when she decided to close her PR firm. Could it be that she has her eye clearly fixed on the future?

Finally, in the BCBusiness September edition, we hear the answer to one of Vancouver’s biggest business mysteries: Why is PR doyenne Mat Wilcox closing her highly regarded shop? The Vancouver Courier – having published two recent articles – seems particularly interested.

Mat has reigned over the city’s PR scene for 15 years, parlaying a personal style, a great strategic mind and a knack for knowing all the big business players into a company that specialized in crisis communications. Half the city’s PR purveyors have worked for her at one time or other.

But a few weeks ago, Mat suddenly announced that she was killing her firm, laying off her staff, and abandoning her downtown Pender Street digs by the end of the month.

Social media, she said, has changed the PR game forever, and she could no longer play the game as a traditional PR operation.

Of course, this sparked a flurry of questions and speculations about social media, the PR industry, and, as would be expected, Mat herself. One headline of note: “Social Media Killed The PR Star”.

I don’t know what she’s going to say in the article – despite my, ahem, exalted position here (lol), they don’t tell me these kind of things. But I can add to the speculation.

I don’t believe Mat Wilcox was blindsided by social media at all. She’s one of the most active users of social media in town, blasting out Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn messages with abandon to this day. If anything, she’s a wholehearted adopter instead of a victim.  

But I do think she was right about social media’s effect on the traditional PR firm business model. Opening a big and fancy shop, staffing it with a bunch of eager young people hoping to get into the glamorous life of PR, and selling corporate communications services to giant (and deep-pocketed) firms doesn’t really make it any more.

The one-stop-shop model of communications is dying. There are too many information outlets today for a single information conduit to work. As a result, and combined with increasing competition, specialization has been creeping into the industry for some time.

Social media increased that competition exponentially. Bubbling up from the street, in a sense, it rapidly became the main information conduit for many people, creating thousands of new shops that purported to hold the magic key to this new communication form.

Corporations are still trying to grapple with what that means. They know they have to get into the game, but everything about social media is against their traditional advertising  and PR model.

So what’s Mat Wilcox doing?

I think it’s quite simple: After 15 years at the top of yesterday’s PR heap, she’s getting into fighting trim for the world of tomorrow.

Dump the traditional, and expensive business model of old, which was really based on an industrial concept of a factory that delivers services. Instead, use a consultative business model, which, in a knowledge economy, is very much how business will be conducted in future.

Leverage your name, connections and experience to position yourself as a consultant to corporations on your specialization. Become the expert on one thing. Instead of using billable hours and revenue as a tally of success, make a tidy profit by servicing a few clients and keeping your costs way down.

Maybe, like many today, she’s just tired of running so hard in the old way, and wants to try something different.