Show PR's relationship-building role

What a difference a year makes. Instead of the negative attention that our industry received last year, we've been receiving recognition and support from many corners of the marketing and business world.

What a difference a year makes. Instead of the negative attention that our industry received last year, we've been receiving recognition and support from many corners of the marketing and business world.

Ad Age and The Economist ran articles discussing the power of PR. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) featured a PR panel on its Integrated Marketing Conference agenda for the first time. Major marketers, such as Procter & Gamble, are reinforcing the value that PR delivers to their businesses - and are making greater use of it. And in a recent ANA survey, respondents - clients of both PR and ad agencies - rated PR as the marketing communications discipline that delivered most value to their businesses.

As PRWeek's recent Agency Excellence Survey shows, clients feel agencies are adding significant value to their businesses, and, by and large, they're very satisfied with their agencies. Given that firms have said that the most important thing we can do is advocate for and promote our business, it seems our efforts are bearing some fruit.

The Council of PR Firms has been reaching out to CMOs to better understand their current perceptions and to share with them the strong role that PR can play in their businesses. At the first of what we hope will be a series of CMO roundtables, CMOs shared some of their needs, which will help us to hone the "proof points" for the value of PR.

Brand marketers want to tell good stories about brands. This is right in our sweet spot. PR is based on presenting compelling stories about products, corporations, and points of view.

The best storytellers are the best listeners. Check. PR pros listen to all audiences to help create messaging and positioning.

Even though 80% of a company's business likely comes from 20% of customers, those 20% are not homogenous. We have that covered, too. PR is based on dialogue that can be tailored to individuals or individual communities.

Leverage horizontal expertise. That's what we do. PR firms look at trends across client portfolios, industries, and other specialty areas. Providing market intelligence to the marketing team from our outside perspective can be a home run for client and agency.

CMOs understand that as part of the shift in their relationships with consumers, old marketing rules no longer apply - they want to develop better relationships with their customers/consumers and to know the latest, greatest thinking that will bring measurable results.

This is a perfect time for PR to continue to prove its value as part of an integrated marketing campaign. One of the industry's biggest opportunities is to take greater ownership of the new communications channels that are remaking the marketing landscape.

The rising popularity of word of mouth, blogs, podcasts, consumer-generated content, and social networking sites is a perfect opportunity to showcase the ability of PR campaigns to build relationships. It's great to see the many ways firms are building these channels into their programs.

In a recent editorial, PRWeek asked, "Can PR keep the ball if ad pros play on its field?" Growing recognition of PR's value to marketers and our clients shows we're on the right track. And rather than play defense, we can - and should - be demonstrating the relationship-building role of PR, which is so central to clients' needs today.

Helen Ostrowski is CEO of Porter Novelli and 2006 chair of the Council of PR Firms.

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