PR's right seat at the marketing table

Many of us practicing brand-marketing public relations have noticed a challenging trend over the past few years: our cross-disciplinary marketing counterparts developing and presenting what feels a heck of a lot like PR ideas to our clients.

Many of us practicing brand-marketing public relations have noticed a challenging trend over the past few years: our cross-disciplinary marketing counterparts developing and presenting what feels a heck of a lot like PR ideas to our clients. Various factors have contributed to this “great land grab,” including changing traditional media consumption habits, the explosion of social media platforms, and perhaps even more importantly, the shifting values of the post-recession consumer. 

Understanding consumers' current mindset and embracing the resulting trend toward “values-based” marketing has helped us at Hunter Public Relations see an opportunity for our discipline to contribute more than ever as drivers of brand marketing.

Simply put, values-based marketing sparks an emotional connection between consumers and brands by focusing on the values they both share. 

“Values” in this context refers to a range of attributes, not necessarily those of the “noble” variety. For example, global consumer research company Iconoculture defines consumer values as “particular aspects of consumer motivation.”

They express core wants, desires, needs, and passions. The 93 various values they've defined include everything from justice, compassion, and integrity to playfulness, speed, and my personal favorite, moxie. So although all cause-related marketing is inherently values based, not all values-based marketing must be cause-related.

Consumer values are changing more rapidly than ever before.  As outlined in an excellent article by John Gerzema, head of Brand Asset Consulting at Y&R, nearly 20 years worth of data from their Brand Asset Evaluator (BAV) reveals that “people are returning to old fashioned values to build new lives of purpose and connection. They also realize that how they spend their money is a form of power, and are moving from mindless consumption to mindful consumption, increasingly taking care to purchase goods and services from sellers that meet their standards and reflect their values.”

In Philip Kotler's book, Marketing 3.0, he predicts that traditional marketing will lose its effectiveness, marketing budgets will decrease and companies will want marketers to do more with less. To succeed with today's savvy consumers, brands will need to consider the “whole human,” including mind, heart, and spirit. 

Here's the thing: top brand PR practitioners have been doing this all along. Long before the advent of social media and no matter what the consumer mindset, authenticity, transparency, and shared values have always been key drivers of brand PR success.  Public relations programs bring brand values to life through events and meaningful partnerships, engage consumers and the media that reach them in two-way conversations, and don't just talk the talk – but also walk the walk.

But when it comes to grounding big ideas in research (note the earlier citing of Y&R) and presenting them with great storytelling and sizzle, our advertising counterparts kick our collective butts (case in point, PR's well-documented recent dissing at Cannes). Stepping up our game in these areas will help us come to the table as true marketers, a moniker that no CPG-brand PR person should hesitate to embrace.

In future blog posts, we'll take a deeper look at the forces influencing consumer values, the demographic differences in those values and how PR programs can leverage the insights that emerge.

Samara Farber Mormar is senior vice president, insights & strategy at Hunter Public Relations.

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