“The Times They Are a Changin” is a good theme song to represent the past two decades in the public relations industry. The digital age presented a new set of tools, which led to a shift in approach and an intensified focus on two-way communication. Organizations gained the ability to communicate directly with important audiences online with the goal of engaging in (and creating) conversations. It’s possible we’ve been so busy managing the change that we’ve missed the mark in building widespread understanding for what PR firms do. We provide much more than media relations – now you know where this post is going.
Through the years the words used to describe PR have changed, but the idea remains the same. The Public Relations Society of America’s current definition says, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
You may be wondering: How do PR practitioners and firms do this, especially in the midst of these changing times? In fairness, the answer is complex. If you’re currently working with a PR firm or planning to engage one, here are five things to know:
1) Earning media coverage is one strategy we often use to achieve our clients’ goals, but it’s not synonymous with PR. A team working to “build mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” using only media relations as the tool is like an interior designer decorating a house and using only paint. We utilize all relevant and available tools – from social media channels to email to mainstream media – to help make a measurable impact.
2) We strive to create holistic, integrated campaigns that incorporate paid, earned, shared and owned media strategies to achieve business goals. In doing so, we build a message that resonates and identify the best tactics and channels to get the message in front of the right audiences.
3) Your PR firm can be your consumer engagement/consumer marketing firm. Our ability to effectively understand your consumers, craft messages, communicate with key audiences, and measure outcomes based on business goals gives us an edge when creating consumer campaigns.
4) PR plans include a combination of offline and online strategies. It’s rare for offline tactics (e.g., stunts, events and speaking engagements) to be executed without online components, especially when it comes to owned media – your social channels, blogs, e-newsletters, websites, etc.
5) As two-way communication experts, we feel we are best equipped to manage the relationships between organizations and their publics, from investors to consumers to industry influencers to employees. Therefore, your PR firm can be your social communications and marketing firm, your consumer engagement firm, your corporate communications firm, your employee engagement firm, your media relations firm, and so on.
As you head into planning for 2015, we encourage you to rethink what your PR firm can do for you.