Monday, 14 April 2014

Time for PR to adapt or die: 4 key actions

Public relations has had a chequered history.  Often seen as the fluffy poor relation to advertising or direct marketing, PR has often been one of the first areas to be scaled back in troubled times.

As markets pick up and business confidence grows, PR faces yet another challenge: how to reposition itself as a valuable channel in the marketing mix. 

Traditional PR, characterised by press releases, press launches, journalist relations and PR stunts, has to adapt to the modern marketing landscape or risk being sidelined to ‘nice to have’ status. Or, worse still, disappear altogether.

To survive, PR professionals, whether agency or in-house, need to address four key issues:

Integrate with the wider strategy: it never ceases to amaze me that many organisations see PR as almost stand-alone.  Separate PR teams with their own strategies seems to have been an acceptable approach.  If PR is to survive, it needs to be fully integrated in the wider marketing strategy and team, in the same way that digital has, at least in many forward-thinking organisations. 

Embrace digital and recognise your audience has changed: PR needs to move on from its traditional focus on print and broadcast media and fully embrace digital channels.  For example, failing to include blogger outreach activity when promoting a news story or launching a product means a significant and influential audience is excluded.

Recognise that PR is part of a wider content strategy: content strategies and plans are not just for digital teams.  PR professionals need to consider how they can align with digital activity, reinforce the messaging and repurpose content to achieve an integrated approach to brand, product or corporate messaging.

Reconsider the traditional metrics:  ‘advertising value equivalent’ is a blunt tool to measure PR effectiveness borne out of the need to justify value in the face of the threat from advertising. Instead, PR professionals need to focus on learning from their digital colleagues and start talking about relevant reach and engagement.

Whether PR survives as a stand-alone discipline remains to be seen.  What’s clear is that it needs to adapt to survive by embracing the modern digital world.