Let’s Make Public Relations More Relevant

It’s true – a lot of people just don’t understand what PR people do. They think it’s about pitching the media, chasing positive coverage, then rinsing and repeating.

Certainly media relations is an important component of public relations. Communicators have gotten much better at relating to the media and are using more innovative ways to tell their brand’s story. And the media in turn need PR more than ever as it is challenged by limited resources and a 24/7 news cycle with content being produced by non-journalists as well. Within the company I work for – Access Intelligence – I hear every day our editors talking about their conversations with PR people and their actively reaching out to PR for assistance.

But PR is not just about media relations. PR is arguably one of the most important roles in an organization: managing reputation, mitigating crisis, communicating financial health, launching products and brands, and contributing to the triple bottom line. Before marketers fully embraced social media, PR pros were active on the social platforms and sitting in the driver’s seat when it came to all things Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and so forth. But:

Marketers have caught up to PR on social media.

Brands are turning to journalists and marketers more than PR for their content marketing.

Marketing firms are now offering PR services.

Integrated communications is still an unrealized goal by many.

Are we at the point in Public Relations where we should be wearing baseball caps saying “Make PR Great Again”? Do we need to rally the troops and get people campaigning about the power of Public Relations? I’ve noted in previous blogs that PR is sometimes akin to the cobbler’s kids not having shoes. As communicators, we have a difficult job and our accomplishments are many. But does anyone notice? Are we shoeless?

It matters that PR is noticed. If what you are doing day in and day out is going unnoticed by the C-suite, by the media and other influencers, by your clients and by your peers in marketing and sales, then it is highly unlikely that you will advance within your organization and that PR will gain influence. It is unlikely PR will get a bigger slice of the budget. Communicators finally have a seat at the executive table, but let’s face it – it’s wedged in the corner of the room and more symbolic than anything.

It’s imperative that as communicators we showcase our good work, we prove our worth, we take integrated communications seriously and we don’t squander the leadership position in content marketing and social media.

To get there, we need to brush up on measurement, data and analytics. Not only should PR people understand how to measure outcomes; they need to communicate the results to those who matter and take steps to improve initiatives or strategies based on the measurable results.

All this talk about big data – or even small data – is not just for the quants and marketers. Get access to the right data, understand your stakeholders better and be a part of this data revolution. Ask for help within your company or from peers who are data experts.

Social media is up for grabs within your organization. Understanding the platforms by using them every day and going where your audience is (not where you think they are) will be key to having control of the wheel. And while social media is an excellent communications tool, it is not a strategy. Understand the difference.

I am not advocating we don the baseball cap with the "Make PR Great Again" slogan. I do think we need to raise our voices, though. Don’t be afraid to tout PR’s accomplishments. If PR is the original storyteller within an organization, why not tell your story more often?

-- Diane Schwartz

Twitter: @dianeschwartz