Public relations as practiced for the last one hundred years is dead.
That’s right, PR as it was practiced from the early 1900s to 2009 is no longer relevant, in fact, and we would argue it’s dead. Today, it is not enough for a company to decide what information is important to customers and then spoon-feed stories to journalists who in turn pass it on to their readers. No longer is it up to a company to decide what product features customers want to hear about or tell those customers how they should interact with a product. Nope. It just does work that way any more.
Today, customers are too savvy to take a company’s word on something, maybe anything; customers going to test every assumption themselves. If they like what they see and hear, they’ll buy it, recommend it to their friends and family and share their experiences with the world online. Likewise, if company’s product or service doesn’t live up to the promise, customers will make their sentiments heard via blogs, social media or they may even take the time to set up a Web site panning your product since the flow of information is now bidirectional.
Give Me What I Want
Today, customers want useful information in a format that is easy for them to read—that means no industry jargon. It must be informative, entertaining and relevant. And, they want that information to be easily accessible from all of the sources they feel comfortable going for it, either online or off, and from their mobile device.
In today’s PR world, every customer must be treated the same way PR people used to treat journalists. Why? Because in today’s world, every customer IS a journalist. If you don’t believe it, remember what any number of real customers posted on social media sites about the BP oil spill throughout the summer of 2010. Many of these “new journalists” reported first-hand what they saw throughout the disaster. And often, these eyewitness reports were repackaged by traditional media for their newscasts.
In this new world, companies (and their communications agencies) must nurture their relationships with customers directly. Yes, relationships need to be built. Trust needs to be earned. Your company needs to be seen as one that understands the world in which today’s customer lives. Your company must engage with your customers in a give-and-take manner, or risk losing them altogether. There are simply too many choices for customers these days. If they don’t like the way you’re interacting with them, they’ll find another company that gets it.
That means you can’t simply write press releases any more and hope for the best. Remember, that type of PR is dead. Move on. Besides, just because a search engine picked up your company’s press release doesn’t mean anybody actually read it, or cared.
You Are A Publishing Company
The good news is that your company has more than enough useful, informative, entertaining and relevant content on hand to make your interactions with customers meaningful; if you know where to look for it and what to do with it once you find it.
We work with our clients with the premise that every company is a media company because it can create compelling content, or stories, which can be used to engage directly with your target audiences.
Content-Centered Public Relations
At 3Point Communications we've found that appling content-centered public relations, or 2CPR, accomplishes two important communications objectives simultaneously for customers:
We use 2CPR to engage individual audiences—such as customers, investors, employees and other interested parties—in a direct, ongoing dialogue to incite them to take a specific action or to feel a particular way that is consistent with their business objectives, and
2CPR helps us create unique, context-appropriate stories that are flexible enough to be disseminated through third-party communications channels such as traditional print and broadcast media, analyst reports, blogs, social media sites or any other medium that sits between customers and their targeted audiences, thus reinforcing the messages that they are sending directly to your audience.
2CPR enables PR pros to talk directly to an individual, say a customer, while also reaching that same individual through third-party communication.
This direct/indirect form of interactive communication leads the targeted individual to feel good about the decisions they make because they are having an direct conversation with you, and at the same time their opinions are validated by third parties who reinforce the dialogue that they’re having with you. They make decisions (to buy, to join, to invest, etc.) based on direct communication with you, but feel they’ve made the right decision because of the reinforcement and validation they receive from third-party media channels.
In this regard, 2CPR lives at the nexus of business strategy, public relations, content marketing and social media. This is a new way of communicating with audiences that cannot be achieved by traditional PR, social media or advertising alone.
Traditional public relations is dead. Long live 2CPR.
Steve Jursa is partner at 3Point Communications.