At its root, good PR feeds influence that increases reach and produces an ROI action for the company―whether the PR is being produced in-house or within an agency on behalf of a client. The mission of PR has not changed, yet the increase of channels of influence are now decentralized, offering more ways for companies to reach their intended audience and resulting in a much wider array of disciplines. And, today we have the tools to push fully integrated PR competencies and programs that deliver real, measurable results.
When people speak of public relations, they often immediately think specifically of media relations. It’s one of the misnomers that actually can drive public relations professionals a bit crazy, having their skills being siloed in such a specific sector of the profession. Although media relations remains a critical area of the discipline, the evolution of technology and significance of influencer marketing has broadened the definition and activities of public relations drastically.
PR Competencies and Marketing
The line between marketing and public relations has always tended to be a bit grey and the additional disciplines are creating a wider blurred line―which is expected to continue to grow as distribution channels continue to fragment. According to the 2017 USC Annenberg School’s Global Communications report, almost 50% of PR professionals and more than 60% of marketing executives believe their two disciplines will become more closely aligned within the next five years.
As in-house functions converge, agency engagement is diverging and keeping hierarchical autonomy. Agencies still generally report to the CEO with a small percentage gain reporting to marketing. In house PR executives predict an increase in budgets and use of agencies, while a majority of marketing executives do not. This variance might be explained by the continued narrow scope of services that, in general, marketing expects from PR.
The PR Vantage
Yet, more corporations are recognizing PR competencies and skill sets are needed and placing PR “at the table.” Jackie Cooper, global chair-creative strategy at Edelman was quoted in Ad Age last year stating that PR is “getting not just a seat at the table, we’re getting half the table.” PR is now working at campaign inceptions with creative to develop powerful integrated campaigns with measurable ROI rather than being “tacked on” as an afterthought or sidelined until the company “needs some media” (which is, in essence, relegating highly skilled professionals to a tactical “steno pool”).
It’s an approach that seasoned communication professionals have been fighting for over the decades and is long overdue, especially in this age of influence. The content, engagement creativity, and influencer communication has been the core of PR competencies. In turn, PR has a huge opportunity to inform marketing and the c-suite of what customers are saying, doing and thinking about products and services―as well as continue to closely monitor and maintain company reputation.
Using Your Agency to Leverage PESO
New public relations disciplines often follow the PESO model: Paid media, Earned media, Shared media and Owned media. PESO activities capitalize on decentralized communications as well as micro-influence trends by including more activities around content creation, social integration, paid media opportunities, influencer relations, partnerships, and incentive opportunities.
Depending on the industry and company, PESO activities can overlap with marketing directives―how much can depend on the company/client, their industry, and their niche/differentiator within that industry. Yet with lean in-house marketing departments, the overlap represents an opportunity for marketing and public relations to collaborate and provide more comprehensive solutions for today’s business needs.
Digital storytelling, social listening, social purpose, and big data are noted as the most prominent trends over the next five years and a dynamic shift from the past according to Annenberg (full chart below). However, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are emerging technologies that can a significant impact on communications―how or when is yet to be determined.
Thanks to technology and the emerging changes in how business is conducted, the future for PR competencies and communications looks robust. PR professionals―agency and in-house executives―are poised to remain seated “at the table” creatively as a key force and collaborator in moving companies’ business agendas forward.