Social media is the best friend of public relations. It listens, it entertains, and it has helped PR move from the backseat of a marketing campaign to a driving force. Other disciplines have taken note.
I remember five years ago when PR's main charge was to bring an ad campaign to life. Does anyone else remember passing around ads in 2004 as the main catalyst for ideation? Marketing made the bulk of decisions with advertising and then handed it to the PR team to share with the rest of the world like the final step in a game of telephone. The creativity and brilliance from PR was in the delivery, not the inception of the idea. In strategic PR, the inspiration for the communication “how” came from an intimate understanding of what content the media would want to share with their audiences. PR exercised the most important communication skill — listening first.
It turns out that was a good skill to bank on. Social media blew up, and consumers began to have a voice beyond a customer service line. Consumer sentiment started to fly freely across forums, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, creating a big moment for PR as the steward of conversations and relationships. Now instead of simply “publicizing” what a brand is doing, we inform it by tapping into the insight and conversation we live in every day. The daily stream has become a pipeline of inspiration to delight consumers, on their terms, instead of waiting for the moment when it's in our interest to talk, aka a campaign.
The evolution of PR has also attracted an unexpected fan — advertising. The tables are turning, and today's smartest ad agencies are starting to behave like PR agencies. From leveraging bloggers and editorial content in their campaigns to hiring PR people to work on creative teams, they are taking our cues on how to earn media and social interest.
The most recent topic on the mind of a few agency professionals I've talked to recently? Inserting brands into the day's conversation. Every time I hear it, I think, “Wait — that's what PR already does.” But then I stop and remember the most valuable thing we can imitate from ad agencies is the ability to sell what we're already doing.
Adrianna Giuliani is SVP of creative and strategic planning at DeVries. Follow her on Twitter at @adriannagiuls.