OP-ED: Relationships are a main by-product of media relations

PR practitioners, communicators by nature, are keen at maintaining a focus on the big picture. We understand what is required to properly promote and publicize a product, brand, or corporation, and we recognize the broad range of elements that need to be considered. The reason we are so successful at this is because, at its core, PR is all about cultivating, building, and balancing relationships with a diverse audience. In the end, the key function that makes a good PR practitioner is all about how they manage relationships.

PR practitioners, communicators by nature, are keen at maintaining a focus on the big picture. We understand what is required to properly promote and publicize a product, brand, or corporation, and we recognize the broad range of elements that need to be considered. The reason we are so successful at this is because, at its core, PR is all about cultivating, building, and balancing relationships with a diverse audience. In the end, the key function that makes a good PR practitioner is all about how they manage relationships.

Far too often, the practice of media relations remains the exclusive focus of PR activities, sometimes to the detriment of other important aspects of the discipline. While media relations is what PR is widely known and respected for, and it is a critical component of successful PR programs, it is not everything. Yes, PR people are largely driven to pursue media hits, delivered by credible spokespeople in well-crafted contexts to targeted audiences. Making headlines is probably the most exciting thing we do. But the reality is that the impact of a single media hit is much larger than the lines it takes up in the newspaper. The clip itself is indicative of more meaningful connections that will reach an audience far wider than the single media outlet in which it originally appeared. It is these enduring impressions, the ones created through the interviewer and the spokesperson, imparted to the reader by the publication, that demonstrate PR's true strength. The development of media relationships that can deliver this type of resonating message cannot be based on a single pitch call. They must be cultivated with give-and-take in order to be credible and valid. Reporters must come to rely on PR practitioners to deliver specific information that cannot be obtained anywhere else. In turn, PR people must know how to package their information for appropriate reporters in order to enable them to make a difference within their news organization. This strategic process is what endures in the end, and it is what makes a client value their PR strategist for his or her media contacts. However, with more competition and increasing media fragmentation, it is important to view our role as extending beyond media relations. When PR pros are brought in at the inception as part of the marketing mix, they are uniquely positioned to lead integrated discussions and execute campaigns that touch multiple disciplines. This head start enables PR people to reach beyond media outlets to craft, package, and deliver branded messages in line with an overall campaign strategy. With PR at the core of a program, multiple marketing disciplines can focus on integrating relationships. Many client organizations are structured so that different marketing disciplines have limited or no interaction. This leads to overlooked opportunities for collaboration, which can sacrifice the impact of results and also efficiencies of time and money. PR people, trained to apply the fundamental dynamics of relationship management across the full marketing spectrum, can drive an integrated approach by pushing our clients to seek out synergies and rise above the boundaries of traditional marketing departments. Opportunities for PR participation that can impact the depth and breadth of message penetration are many. Some things that a client can do to maximize their PR talent include: Make PR part of market research development and execution; include PR input in the establishment of communications advisory boards; and seek assistance from PR to identify and cultivate third party advocates. Other non-traditional areas that would benefit from PR input include grassroots marketing, retail programs, and event-based promotions. Having PR work in tandem with marketing will ensure that the company and product are positioned consistently from internal communications to ads to direct mail. PR is a natural choice to lead such an integrated approach, since it has aspects of so many different functions within its domain. The most targeted way to get all of the appropriate parties invested in a relationship management program is to create a common goal. Such an effort will involve many parties, far more than are traditionally considered at the outset of a PR program. These groups include media, community groups, marketing, and managed-care organizations. When all are factored into the planning, then the marketing and communications strategies will echo and support each other on all fronts, reaching consumers from every angle and outlet.
  • Nancy Bacher Long is president of Dorland Public Relations, a business unit of Dorland Global Health Communications.

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