Those in the marketing and communications fields can feel it. How we perceive and define PR is changing drastically. For years, PR would take a back seat to an ad campaign as a tool to influence stakeholders. Case in point: there are plenty of famous brands out there that historically would spend $2 million on a 30-second Super Bowl spot, but are unwilling to spend that on their annual PR budget.
The tables are turning, however, and in my eyes, PR leaders are now just as critical as CMOs, and the art of PR is more vital to an organization's survival than ever before. The result: dollars that were once allocated for advertising are making their way to support PR efforts. This is a trend I support wholeheartedly.
But why? What exactly is it that's turning the PR world on its head and increasing the prominence of the art of raising awareness and managing conversations? In the simplest terms, there is more to PR than there ever was before. Years ago, the meat of PR was based on media relations, but today, media relations is just a small sliver of the PR game. PR professionals today aren't just publicists; they need to tackle new forms and forums of communications like social media, branded entertainment, and the crisis management that comes with the ever-increasing regulatory maze that clients face. In the past, PR was about managing a monologue, or what one specific reporter, or a group of distinct reporters, would say about your company or your brand. Today, however, PR is about managing a dialogue – customers, businesses, and influencers discussing the merits of a product, the economics of a big company initiative, or why a company failed in some way, all on the same platform with equal voices. This can be a challenging, if not scary, proposition for a company.
Am I saying advertising is a dying conduit to reach consumers? Absolutely not, and as a matter of fact, it continues to be the largest revenue driver of my business and likely will be for some time. What I am saying, however, is that smart companies are those alert enough to recognize that the methods of effectively communicating a message to a key audience are changing. PR professionals today are in an enviable spot, in a virtual playground where they have dozens of unique arenas to proactively elevate a client's visibility or jump on damage control. Those who have the dexterity to navigate these arenas will continue to take an increasing amount of a company's marketing budget. This is why we are investing so heavily in PR, and will continue to do so until we have the right mix of expertise.
PR pros should be smiling. No longer are they playing second fiddle to the ad agency, and the dollars now flowing their way are proving it.
Miles Nadal is founder, chairman and CEO of MDC Partners.