Tag Archives: marketing

PR is More Than Just a Workstream

February 1, 2016

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A version of this post first appeared in the PRSA PRSAY Forum. 

PR pros have to start thinking of themselves as more than just the “earned” bubble of the PESO model. If and when they do, they’ll realize that while they’ve been focused on writing press releases, pitching the media, and planning events, marketers from other disciplines are not only playing in the earned bubble too, they’re increasingly doing it better than we are.

We live in a world of integrated marketing whether we like it or not. Ad agencies are winning Cannes Lions for “PR campaigns” and PR agencies are winning for “ad campaigns.” We may be the only ones still drawing a line between PR and marketing and between paid and earned media.

This “us vs. them” attitude is the same argument we were having 20 years ago. Today’s consumer doesn’t care. And increasingly, clients don’t care either. As Kieran Donahue, VP of Marketing Americas at Hilton Worldwide said,

“The whole idea of PR versus marketing is crap. You are all connected.”

The things that make great brand marketing are the things that PR should have always been about – authenticity, newsworthiness, shareability, transparency, creativity. Think about the best marketing campaigns. They are filled with content that you seek out, that you watch willingly, and that you share with your friends. That’s the type of content that PR has always talked about. And as more and more people use ad blockers, DVRs and subscriptions to avoid interruptive advertising, PR thinking is finally showing real business dividends.

So while PR pros are sitting around arguing about how we should have a seat at the table, other disciplines have started doing PR work better than our own industry. That invitation to the table that we’re always waiting for? It’s not coming. Seats at the table go to the people with the best ideas, not the people in a particular box on the org chart. If we want a seat at the table, we have to earn it, and once we’re there, we have to be better guests.

We have to compete on the strength of our ideas, and that means changing how we think, how we talk, and how we present ourselves. We have to think of PR less as a workstream, as a functional specialty and start thinking of it as a mindset, as a unique perspective you can bring to marketing. I spoke about this topic at the PRSA International Conference earlier this month. In my presentation, I shared five things PR pros have to start doing to improve the quality of those ideas.

  1. Get inspired. Stop reading PR-only articles and blog posts. Stop going to PR-only events. Stop talking to PR-only people. You’re not only allowed to get out of the PR bubble, it is necessary for your survival. Broaden your horizons and start checking out what other marketing disciplines are doing. Understand how they talk about themselves. How they present their ideas.
  2. Learn their language. Saying “I went into PR because I hate math” may be said jokingly, but every time it’s said, it sets our industry back. We may have different functional specialties, but we’re all business people with the same business goals. Learn about aided and unaided awareness, share points, RTBs, CTAs, CPMs, CTRs, and USPs.
  3. Think critically. Rarely is a business problem solved solely with PR. We have to stop and think with our business hat on more often. Let’s ask “is that really the problem we should be solving? Is that the real problem?”
  4. Own the big idea. We’re all tired of being asked to “PR this” or to “get coverage” for something. Why are we sitting and waiting for “the big idea?” What would happen if we were the ones coming up with the big idea? What would happen if we were driving this bus from the beginning instead of jumping on at the end? Do we even know what a “big idea” is? Instead of training our people to come up with big ideas, we train them to be smart and detail-oriented. We have to work harder to come up with our own “big ideas” – ideas that work across paid, earned, owned, and social. They have to impact the business in a profound way.
  5. Sell in the big idea. Coming up with ideas is easy. Getting them sold in to your boss, to your client, to the finance department – that’s the hard part. And unfortunately, that’s the part we don’t do well. Here’s one example of how PR is losing that battle. Leo Burnett and MSLGroup’s Always’ #LikeaGirl campaign was one of the most iconic campaigns of the past year. Not surprisingly, it was awarded the Cannes Grand Prix in PR this year. Here’s the submission video they created for Cannes, the “Oscars” of advertising and creativity:

Pretty inspiring, huh? I’ve got three daughters and that video got me thinking they’re going to change the world. What a great way to showcase that campaign. Note how it uses video and striking imagery to tell a story and inspire people. That’s what sells in big ideas, not complex slides and detailed bullets.

If you’re interested in checking my whole presentation, it’s available here. PR is what makes great brand marketing today, so shouldn’t we be the ones leading the charge?

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Integrated Marketing Is A Mindset, Not A Mandate

March 30, 2015

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This post originally appeared on PRSA’s blog, ComPRhension.

"You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Hungry!"

According to a 2013 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. That’s the result of years of agency specialization and the emergence of PR agencies, digital agencies, social agencies, creative agencies, etc. Managing all of these specialties became a job unto itself and brands are increasingly asking for both the expertise AND integration.

Unfortunately, this saturation has created a buzzword without any real meaning. Go to any agency’s website, any conference, any academic program, any industry publication and you’ll see the result – “integrated marketing” is everywhere. Integrated marketing has become nothing more than a bunch of boxes on an org chart – get the Director of Search, and a VP of Media, a Director of PR, a Senior Social Media Strategist, and a User Experience Czar in the same meeting and poof! you’ve got an integrated marketing team.

Here’s the thing. That doesn’t mean you’ve got an integrated marketing agency. What you’re more likely to have is an old-fashioned game of Hungry Hungry Hippos – everyone’s scratching and clawing to get more money and power for their respective discipline. By involving all of the functional experts, all you’ve done is get a bunch of hammers looking for nails in your meeting. That is, the social media guy will try to think of ways for social media to solve everything. The paid media guy wants a paid media solution. And so on and so on. You end up with a bunch of strategies and tactics that someone then has to cobble together into a deck that is probably organized by discipline vs. a single integrated, coherent strategy.

Integrated marketing isn’t about mandating that each capability gets a seat at the table. It’s about making sure that each seat at the table is filled by someone who is focused on meeting the business goals, regardless of capability. And perhaps counterintuitively, that may mean that those experts you went out and hired should give up their seat at the table. In my session at the PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference on April 24th, I’ll discuss how to better leverage your team’s strengths to make integrated marketing a mindset that drives better results. I hope you’ll join me, but if you can’t, here are three tips to help create that integrated marketing mindset in your organization.

Make your org chart a little fuzzy. Functional experts, by definition, have gone deep into one particular area. Integrated marketers, on the other hand, have to be more of a jack-of-all-trades and they don’t always fit nicely into your existing org chart. Don’t force these people into a box. They’ll more valuable if they’re encouraged to flow in and out of those boxes.

Stop rewarding fiefdoms. If I’m judged solely by how much PR business I have or by how many clients I can upsell PR to, that’s where my focus is going to be. Rather than using all of our capabilities, I’m going to try to wedge PR in there whatever way I can. Truly integrated agencies reward integrated thinking, not empire-building.

Stop organizing your deliverables according to your org chart. Rather than creating different deliverables/sections/budgets for each discipline, consider organizing things based on the customer journey. This requires getting all of the disciplines working together on the same slides, not just copying and pasting their respective sections into a deck. Integrated marketing is a new way of working together to create new thinking, not a new way of organizing what we’ve always done.

I’m presenting “Improved Decision-Making: Leveraging Your Team’s Strengths and Filling in the Gaps” at the PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference on Friday, April 24. Register to attend the conference to learn more about Steve’s topic.

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31 ‘New Clues’ for PR Practitioners

February 23, 2015

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This post originally appeared on PR Daily

book-midFifteen years ago, “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” one of the most important business books of the Internet generation, took the world by storm.

Last month, two of that book’s authors, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, created the “New Clues,” an updated perspective on how the Internet affects marketing, PR and technology.

As I read over the “New Clues,” I thought about the original “Cluetrain” and reflected on how uneducated so many marketers remain to this day. I was wrong to look at the original “Cluetrain” as predictions of what was to come. They were, as the “New Clues” are today, a rallying cry for how things could and should be. These clues challenge readers to stop and consider the world-changing potential the Internet continues to have rather than defaulting to what we’ve always done.

Today’s public relations pros require their own rallying cry. Since the original “Cluetrain” came out, we’ve watched the journalism industry crumble, allowed social media to be taken over by marketers, and seen the rise of native advertising.

It’s do or die time for PR. We have to stop pining for how things used to be and instead take advantage of the opportunities right in front of us.

Maybe these 31 clues will help kickstart your brain and get you thinking bigger. Maybe they’ll be something you share with your teams as I did with the original Cluetrain. At a minimum, I hope they help replace some cynicism with a bit of optimism.

  1. Let’s say it together: PR does not equal media relations.
  2. Impressions, Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVE), hits, clips, reach, and engagement statistics can be manipulated (or even made up) to say anything we want. Clients are starting to understand this, too.
  3. We become what we measure. And what we’re measuring is garbage.
  4. That segment you secured on “The Rachael Ray Show” is great, but how exactly does that reach the target demographic of 45-year-old, single, male truck drivers?
  5. Bragging about the number of media placements and impressions you got is like bragging about the number of hours you worked. Neither number necessarily means you accomplished anything for the organization.
  6. Just because we can measure and optimize something doesn’t always mean we should.
  7. If you’re tired of your client continually asking you for more hits, impressions, or “likes,” show him the metrics that he should be paying attention to, maybe even metrics that are tied to his business goals.
  8. If we aren’t going to educate our clients on how they should measure PR success, who will?
  9. When trust in the media is at its lowest point in history, talking up “third-party credibility” doesn’t exactly conjure up images of Cronkite or Woodward and Bernstein.
  10. If we showed half as much interest in our client’s sales figures as we did to our last media placement, we’d be more likely to get that seat at the table we’re always asking about.
  11. Thanks for running through your comprehensive PR plan. Since you included every last detail, I can tell you put in a lot of work, but by slide 79, I needed a second cup of coffee just to make it through the presentation.
  12. If you’re going to talk about the value of one-on-one relationships in your proposal, try to wait at least a few days before you send the same press release to a thousand people on behalf of that client you just won.
  13. If relationships are so important, why do I only hear from PR people when they’re trying to sell me on something?
  14. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and require our teams to cultivate and maintain those relationships, even if it’s not during billable time.
  15. Given the choice between native advertising content, where impressions, message, and calls to action are guaranteed, what’s the incentive to allocating dollars to PR where not only do these guarantees not exist, the brand is opening itself up to substantial risk?
  16. Media placements in The New York Times or Time magazine don’t mean nearly as much to cost-focused clients when they can cut a check and get the same coverage with more control.
  17. Integrated marketing involves a lot more than simply bringing the SEO guy to the meeting.
  18. You do know that “writing” means more than just copying and pasting lines from a variety of previously approved materials, right?
  19. Writing in AP style and using the inverted pyramid is great, but you know what’s even better? Writing something that someone will want to read and maybe even share.
  20. Stop taking yourself so seriously. You’re managing Facebook and Instagram, not performing brain surgery. Stop thinking your customers are waiting with bated breath for your content. They’re not.
  21. Act as though you actually care about what your customers need and want rather than what will get the most “likes.”
  22. If you’re afraid of what customers might say about your brand if you ask them, you’ve got bigger problems than what to put on your content calendar.
  23. The most powerful phrase for a PR pro, in any medium, to anyone, is simply, “How can I help you?”
  24. Unfortunately, that won’t help our metrics so instead we’ll upload an image of a cat holding a sign that says “I haz help for you” with a search-optimized caption for our brand.
  25. Before you talk about your organization needing to be more “authentic” and “transparent,”you might want to take a peek behind the curtain. What’s authentic about your organization might be greed, scandal and obliviousness.
  26. On your next list of target audiences, include “employees.” Things will go much easier if you consider them before they learn what’s happening to their jobs from the local news anchor.
  27. PR had the opportunity to take the lead with social media and fundamentally change the way organizations communicate with people. Instead, we let marketers take control and turn it into an arms race for “likes,” fans, and followers.
  28. You’ve probably already told the guys writing the checks that if they took half the money they’re spending on banner ads and put it toward providing better customer service, they’d make their money back ten-fold. Keep telling them.
  29. And no, the customer doesn’t care that customer service is handled by another department with a separate budget. They’ll happily take their business elsewhere, and drop you a #fail tweet before they go.
  30. Is this why you really got into PR? Haggling with mommy bloggers over sponsored posts and creating Facebook meme photos?
  31. Even when “big data” becomes “huge data” and “mega data,” and our cars are driving themselves, PR will still be more art than science. It will still be about human-to-human interaction.
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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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