EDITORIAL: One year, many chats, a few lasting thoughts
After a year of editing PRWeek, talking - probably too much on my part and never enough on theirs - with fascinating industry pros, I'm left with so many thoughts. Here are the few I could fit in this space:
After a year of editing PRWeek, talking - probably too much on my part and never enough on theirs - with fascinating industry pros, I'm left with so many thoughts. Here are the few I could fit in this space:This is PR's golden era. It has never been so vital to big business, government, and nonprofits to gain the trust of their key audiences or to maintain their reputations in the face of massing threats. Nor has PR ever been so valuable to corporate marketers who seek more cost-sensitive and effective ways of reaching consumers against the backdrop of a fragmenting media and increasingly cynical public.
Contradictions between the nature of corporate and marketing communications breeds confusion and persistent misperceptions of the PR industry.
Corporate communications must be about effecting change within a company and communicating honestly and transparently with all key stakeholders. Hyperbole, spin, even "promotion" have no place in the corporate communications world. It's about gaining the invaluable commodity of trust.
To be truly effective a corporate PR pro has to have the CEO's ear, a proper understanding of the entire business, and input not only into the company's messages, but also the ways in which it operates.
Marketing-focused PR is a different discipline, essentially about selling products by finding effective ways to reach consumers. There are a growing number of examples of its ability to build new brands through third-party endorsement.
It is a very effective marketing tool, but, naturally, isn't about total and transparent disclosure, but about finding creative ways of positioning and branding. Hyperbole shouldn't play a part - but it is naive to suggest the language of marketing-focused PR isn't going to be persuasive and promotional, and in that way it is very different to corporate PR.
In addition, the idea that PR folks involved in marketing brands, products, and services need to report to the CEO is misguided and unrealistic. They need the ear of the marketing officer or brand manager and need to work closely with the ad and direct marketing teams to ensure consistency of message.
Those who still feel you can't measure PR are either behind the times or lazy. The existence of the internet, a host of research tools and data-sharing systems means you can measure changes in behavior and perception within any target audience.
PR must measure if it is to succeed, and it must measure outcomes not outputs. Will the industry agree on a single measurement system? Unlikely. It is too complex a business, and it provides solutions to too many business problems to have a one-size fits-all measurement system. Should it decide on common goals and common terminology to explain the way it measures to CEOs and CMOs? It must.
PR's efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce still seem mostly lip service. It is time for unified action. Claiming to understand minority groups is a sham if you have no one from those groups.
While simple, the basic rules of media relations are still broken by too many. There is a reason why those that rise to the top are media junkies who establish a proper understanding of the media and great relationships with journalists. There is also a reason why journalists still get upset by PR people - too many still don't know their subject matter in sufficient depth, nor do they do enough research about the publication and person they're pitching. If you are guilty of either, you let this business down.
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