Tag Archives: future

PR Pros: Start Thinking Bigger Before It’s Too Late

November 24, 2014

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This article originally appeared in PR Daily.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at PRSA Pittsburgh’s Professional Development Day  where I spoke about some of the changes that integrated marketing is having on the PR industry. The part of my presentation that drew the greatest reaction from the mostly entry level and student attendees was when I said that the industry has to stop the incessant whining about how PR doesn’t have a seat at the table or how people just don’t “get PR.” I even shared a great quote from my friend Rick Rice that raised some eyebrows –

“The PR industry is in need of disruptive change and none of this generation are even willing to try.”

All of the issues with today’s PR industry – that we’re an afterthought, that people don’t understand what we do or the value we bring, that anyone can do what we do – are nobody’s fault but our own. For years decades, many public relations professionals have chosen to complain about their lack of participation in the big picture rather than taking charge and forcing their way into it. Here’s a hint for all you young PR pros out there:

Kids Table

Image courtesy of Flickr user terren in Virginia

If you want to sit at the big kid table, start acting like one of the big kids.

What does this mean? Well, to start, it means that you have to start speaking their language. Stop talking about hits, placements, and impressions and start talking about share points, aided and unaided awareness, conversions, leads, and sales. That doesn’t mean that PR is going to be directly responsible for any of these, but it does show that you are invested in the whole of the business, not just your specific workstream. It shows that you can add value beyond the PR section of a deck. Every time a PR pro says “I hate math – that’s why I went into PR,” the industry gets pushed further and further down the ladder.

It means that you have to stop talking about how the sausage is made and start focusing on the impact to the larger business. Have you ever watched a presentation from a brand planner? Compare that to a PR guy’s presentation. The brand planner focuses on the big picture. She gets everyone excited about the insights, the winning strategy and how it leads to the overall end result – the impact that it’s going to have on the business. It’s quick. It’s to the point. It’s visual. But most of all, it’s interesting throughout. The PR guy, on the other hand, will feel the need to justify his existence by diving into the nuts and bolts of each individual tactic. He includes all kinds of bullets and charts and graphs. By the time he’s on phase 3 on slide 14, all of the excitement has been sucked out of the room. He’s now trained everyone in the room to believe that PR is small and tactical rather than big and impactful.

It also means that you have to stop rushing to quick wins and slow down. Before launching into your PR ideas, strategies and tactics, ask to see the overall marketing plan. Ask to see the brand’s business objectives. Ask to see the proof behind the copy points in the ads. Ask if you can talk with customers and employees to learn more about what makes the brand unique. Stop trying to rush around so that you can get some results, any results. Slow down, do your research, understand the business. Make it a required part of the PR process. Don’t give in. As an industry, we have to stop asking “how high?” anytime a client or account manager says jump or we’re never going to get the respect we deserve.

Now that brands can pay to secure native content in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and the Wall Street Journal that achieves similar (if not better) statistics as traditional editorial content, the value proposition of a PR pro has to change. As publishers get better and better at integrating native advertising both effectively and ethically, the PR pro’s old standby – “earned coverage has a lot more credibility paid media” – starts to erode. Given the choice between reallocating some of my paid media dollars to native advertising content, where my impressions, message, and CTAs are guaranteed, in a format that is achieving similar traffic, what’s the incentive to trying to earn editorial coverage where I have none of those guarantees and potentially open my brand up to a negative article? Saving a few dollars? That might work for smaller brands without a large media budget, but what about the big brands with millions of dollars?

Some of us have added things like social media, content marketing, media buying, and SEO/SEM to our resumes to try to stay ahead of the curve but these are short-term, tactical solutions. We have to think bigger, beyond the execution of these roles. We have to understand consumer’s entire journey with the the brand’s category and what, if any role, the brand should play at each stage. In a world where transparency and authenticity have become marketing hallmarks, PR has to think of itself less as a workstream and more as a mindset that’s integrated across everything a brand does.

Someone needs to understand how all of these different parts work together. Why can’t PR assume the role of multi-channel quarterback?

What if PR served as a kind of corporate ombudsman, there to call bullshit on the hyperbolic marketing language and “hit you over the head” marketing tactics?

What if (gasp!) PR led your creative?

What if PR, the people who know the public better than anyone, helped shape a brand’s products and services?

What would happen if we started thinking bigger?

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What Does Integrated Marketing Mean to the Future of the PR Professional?

April 4, 2014

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This article originally appeared in the April edition of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) magazine, Communication World. 

For years, marketing, advertising, and public relations folks fought over budgets, scopes of work, ownership, and talent. It was an inefficient, yet accepted dance at organizations of all shapes and sizes. There was paid media, and there was earned media — and for the most part, everyone understood their role.

If only things were still this easy. Today we have Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Managers, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) analysts, Digital Analysts, Community Managers, Content Marketing Specialists, and way too many social media ninjas, gurus, and rockstars. There’s paid media, earned media, owned media, shared media, and something called omni-channel media. The traditional buckets of marketing, advertising, and public relations seem so quaint now.

Customers don’t care about your org chart, your P&L, or which of their agencies are managing which channel. They just expect you to move seamlessly and consistently from channel to channel and device to device, whether that’s using paid, earned, or owned methods. And increasingly, the clients don’t care about these artificial lines of demarcation either. According to a recent Forbes survey, 68% of CMOs and marketing executives put integrated marketing communications ahead of “effective advertising” (65%), when they were asked what the most important thing is that they want from an agency.

Some of the biggest marketing and PR agencies are already adjusting their business models and organizational structures to better optimize their efforts in this new environment:

  • Edelman has recently created a position – Global Director of Paid Media – responsible for defining their approach to paid media and for integrating it into their accounts.
  • Earlier this year, FleishmanHillard restructured to be more channel-agnostic, integrating paid, owned, and earned media. In 2011, they placed $250 million worth of ads in paid media. In 2012, that number increased to more than $1.2 billion.
  • Weber Shandwick created MediaCo, a new unit focused on content marketing, native advertising, and digital media buying.
  • Cramer-Krasselt, my employer, while traditionally seen as an ad agency, actually uses an integrated structure that aligns PR, social media, advertising, paid media, CRM, search, and paid media under one P&L that allows us to create seamlessly integrated campaigns across all forms of media.

PR professionals know, of course, that their job is to build meaningful relationships with their stakeholders. However, doing so today means reaching them through paid, earned, owned, and shared media — understanding how all of these channels work, the content each requires, and how to piece it all together into an integrated plan. Clearly, PR is no longer about just getting “ink” in print or pixels. It’s about developing multi-channel relationships with a variety of stakeholders. It means learning more about paid media and how to incorporate those costs into budgets. It means integrating social ads, sponsored content, and syndicated content into strategies from the very beginning. It means the PR pros with experience in paid, owned AND earned media are going to become much more valuable.

If the traditional practitioner wants to remain relevant in this multi-channel environment, he or she is going to have to stop looking at only media hits and impressions, and  start thinking through the entire customer journey across all channels. For example –

  • That reporter at the New York Times just called and said he’s doing a story on your brand! Will he blog about it too? Will he share it with his 100K Twitter followers and Facebook fans? Is your brand willing to retweet his story? How can you use your owned channels to drive more traffic to that story?
  • The blog content you’re publishing is relevant, valuable, and engaging yet no one is reading it. What’s the right syndication partner to increase your audience size? Should you use paid search links to drive additional traffic? How will the increased traffic impact your bounce rate?
  • What’s the hashtag for that event you’re planning? Should you even have one? How will you create shareable moments during the event? Who’s serving as the digital emcee?
  • Your brand is doing a large paid media buy with one of your target publications. How does this impact your pitch to the editorial staff? How segregated are their advertising and editorial teams?

Building and maintaining stakeholder relationships today is very different than even a few years ago.  Thankfully, the tools used to manage them have evolved also. The reach and influence of some organizations’ owned channels rival that of some traditional publications. Some publications offer sponsored content hubs that mirror the look and feel of their editorial content. The social media newsfeed has become a mishmash of sponsored and organic content and they’re often indistinguishable from each other.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rasta Taxi

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rasta Taxi

Knowing when and how to pull these paid, earned, owned, and shared levers could make the PR pro a multi-channel quarterback because we best understand our stakeholders’ information needs, media consumption habits, and user journeys. As the lines between paid and earned media disappear, the PR pro has to be more proactive and get more involved across the entire marketing mix. Whether that’s being part of the creative team brainstorming the new commercial or working with paid media to create more effective media partnerships, one thing’s clear. The PR pro is going to have to figure out how to get more involved in other channels or risk being left out of the process entirely.

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The Future of Branding is About Making Friends, Not Ads

May 12, 2012

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Make friends, not ads.™

That's the message that greeted me when I first opened the Cramer-Krasselt homepage and again when I walked into the lobby for my first interview five months ago. Seemed especially fitting for me as I've railed against traditional advertising ("look at me!! come buy my stuff!! Now! Now! Now!") and traditional PR ("we're the world's leading provider of innovative solutions…") for what seems like forever. Five months after that first interview and six weeks after my first day, I realize that this is much more than a tagline – it's the future of branding. 

For years now, I've been telling my teams, my clients, and anyone else who will listen that they need to read the Cluetrain Manifesto, internalize it, and put it into action. In fact, stop reading this post and do yourself a favor and read the 95 theses included in that book. It has really changed the way I think about business, branding, public relations, and advertising. Now, maybe I'm just naive or I haven't been in the private sector long enough, but I'm seeing signs that this industry is finally starting to get it. Success isn't about creating that one really cool ad, but about creating lasting relationships with your employees, your customers, and the public. 

Here are a few of the recent articles that I've come across that seem to back this up – 

Consumers Are Most Likely to Forgive USAA, Hyatt, Chick-fil-A and Costco Because Of Their Customer-Service Records, According to New Research — But Much Less Likely To Forgive Chrysler, US Airways, Comcast and BofA

"Forgiveness is a valuable asset that you earn by consistently meeting customers' needs, but many companies don't have enough forgiveness stored up to recover from their miscues"

It's Time for Advertising to Take a Lesson (Gasp!) from Public Relations

"They're not your customers; they're your constituents. It's been said often, but it bears repeating: People don't buy brands. They join them. So modern brands must function like political parties, identifying issues, expressing a coherent world view, staging debates and structuring dialogues."

Social Media Is About Cultivating Community, Not Corralling Cattle

"The harder you try to sell, the more you scare — or simply bore — people away. This central truth is not difficult for brands to understand, but for some reason it is hard for them to internalize and act upon. What is first required is to embrace social relationship-building not as the latest marketing fad, or even as a new reality that has been forced upon you, but as a means to revaluate who you are, what you stand for and why you are in business in the first place."
"As agencies, we have to be honest with clients and help them figure out how big or small their footprint should be in an ever-expanding social universe. Are we crafting community strategies with the brands' objectives truly in mind? Marketers should take the time to step back, look at how many things their consumers have in common and build social presences around what their customers care about and why they are connecting."
To a PR guy like me, I'm reading these articles nodding my head saying "ummmm…no shit. I've been saying all of this for years, and Cluetain said it more than a decade ago." Unfortunately, to many, this is still revolutionary thinking in the advertising, marketing, and even PR industries. THIS is the future of branding – it's not about social or mobile or location aware apps or retargeting – it's about fundamentally rethinking what we learned about PR, advertising, creative, and digital in college. It's about making friends, and not Facebook friends or Twitter friends – it's about making real, honest-to-god friends. Friends who will forgive you when you mess up, who will accept a higher price because they understand and empathize with you, who will step up and defend you when you're being attacked, who will pay more because they share similar beliefs, and who will talk about you with their friends and family because they believe in you. 
 
Ads alone aren't going to win you many friends. The most successful brands have already realized this and are using all of the tools at their disposal – advertising, public relations, community relations, creative, CRM – to build real friendships based on mutual trust, integrity, and respect. So, take the advice I see every day when I walk into work and start focusing on making friends, not ads.  
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PRSA Members Shed Light on Future of Public Relations

November 7, 2009

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PRSA Cover

Download the Survey Report

As the line between communication sender and receiver continue to blur, and the concepts of news cycles and gatekeepers become outdated lexicons of an industry that is undergoing a major transformation, public relations professionals find themselves at a cross-roads.  Let’s face it – public relations itself is having a bit of an identity crisis.  Between the decline of the newspaper industry, the personalization of mass media, and the expansion of social media into every segment of the population, the image of the public relations professional of Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee has become barely recognizable.

What is the role of the public relations professional in today’s communication environment?  What does the future hold?

Well, according to a recent survey by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Booz Allen Hamilton (full disclosure – I work for Booz Allen), the future of public relations will be marked by three topics:

  1. Justifying return on investment (ROI)
  2. Fighting to stay current with the latest technologies and methodologies
  3. Managing the ever-expanding channels of communications

“Social media tools will continue to change and evolve – we should not get stuck on a particular tool but be flexible and put our strategy to work on the appropriate platform.”
–    PRSA member and survey respondent

More than 2,000 PRSA members responded to the survey and provided their thoughts on the challenges they were facing, future trends, and those skills highest in demand now and in the future.

When asked to identify the top challenge they expect to face over the next five years, almost 60% of all respondents said that dealing with limited resources due to economic pressures would be a “great challenge.”  Justifying return on investment and finding the time to engage in online social media communities were the other two top challenges identified by more than half of the respondents.

The major findings are available in the full survey report and you can download that here.

In reviewing the results of the survey, there were a few other interesting points that jumped out at me that didn’t make it into the final report:

  • Almost 70% of respondents were women, matching closely the PRSA membership as a whole.
  • 93% of respondents identified themselves as white or causcasian
  • 29% of respondents were 32 years old or younger, the most popular age group among respondents
  • Compared to more than 40% of respondents who update their website every day, less than 20% comment on, or create content for, blogs on a daily basis
  • The skills identified most often by the respondents as being in highest demand over the next five years are strategic communications, social media, and crisis communications

On Monday, November 9th one of Booz Allen’s Vice President’s, Maria Darby (and one of my friends and mentors), will be briefing the results of this survey and discussing the future of communications and the public relations industry at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego,.  I’ll be joining her for a panel discussion following her presentation so if you’ll be there, make sure you stop by and say hello!

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