As we cross the year's mid-point, I'm encouraged by many of the things I've seen from my vantage point as chair of our industry's trade association. Council surveys have shown that PR is growing, and that there is optimism for our continued prosperity.
Council members are passionate about PR and believe strongly in its prospects. That energy has helped focus our efforts this year on defining and advocating for PR's value proposition.
PR has long been key at the corporate level, helping build long-term reputation, communicate financial performance and prospects, and address public affairs issues. But there is the "other side" to PR - how it helps marketers connect to target audiences to build and position brands, change behavior, and, ultimately, move product off the shelves.
A recent Council survey found that more than half of member firms' revenues are derived from marketing communications, more than twice that of corporate communications. As marketers grapple to connect to consumers and stakeholders in today's fragmented world, the dialogue uniquely created by PR can create powerful connections.
A recent Association of National Advertisers (ANA) survey reflected PR's rising role in the marketing mix. Respondents looked at the business value of a dozen marketing disciplines. PR scored highest, with 59% rating it "very important," 30% rating it "important." This is an opportunity as marketers shift more dollars from advertising to PR.
I moderated a recent panel at the ANA's Masters of Integrated Marketing conference. The panelists provided compelling case studies in which PR not only contributed to, but led successful marketing campaigns. Key to each case was the measurable results.
They showed how PR brings added reach, frequency, and credibility to marketing efforts, while seamlessly integrating with other disciplines.
To help our members better position their marketing communications offerings, the Council identified PR's five core contributions:
Strategic counsel. We bring a unique appreciation of competitor actions, corporate issues, and public affairs challenges - a perspective that helps connect brands with consumers and other stakeholders;
Credibility and objectivity. Among all marketing disciplines, PR is the only one that relies on credible, objective, and authoritative third-party endorsement and influencers;
Action oriented. Marketing PR pros are "get-it-done" people, skilled in executing a wide range of promotional tactics;
Accountability and results delivery. Marketing PR changes attitudes. It changes behavior. It builds business. All in proven, measurable ways;
Innovation and creativity. Because marketing PR people typically work with influencers, they inherently must draw on creativity, imagination, and ideas that capture people's attention.
The Council will continue to carry these messages to a wide variety of audiences. Part of that effort takes place at our annual Critical Issues Forum on November 2. The theme will be "Achieving Engagement in a Post Mass-Media World." Leaders from publishing, media, research, marketing, and PR will look to define the opportunities, threats, and strategies facing our respective businesses at this critical juncture.
Helen Ostrowski is CEO of Porter Novelli and is the 2006 chair of the Council of Public Relations Firms.
The Council is dedicated to strengthening the recognition and role of public relations firms in corporate strategy, business performance, and social education, serving as an authoritative source of information and expert comment and helping set standards for the PR industry. For more information about the Council of Public Relations Firms, call 1-877-PRFIRMS or visit our Web site at www. prfirms.org.
This column is contributed and paid for by the Council of PR Firms.