In PR, we pride ourselves on delivering results that are less “short-burst” and more “long-term.” We discuss our results as “earned,” as opposed to the “paid” results our partners in the advertising segment of the marketing functions drive. Within the marketing functions, we sometimes have similar goals, if only to change behavior, drive interest and discussion, and, ultimately, affect business results.
For years, we've all looked a tad different, brought somewhat different skill sets to the table, and typically had dramatically different budgets, but some of that's changing. Much of our PR efforts are focused on these short bursts of activity, especially when related to social media. The lines between purely earned and paid have blurred with the advent of non-professional journalists garnering interest and mindshare, while our velocity and volume have gone way up.
What does this mean? We're all becoming more focused on adaptation and reaction, rather than firm planning. It means that what was previously effort put into “crisis planning” is now akin to just making sure we're prepared to represent a retail brand on a Tuesday in July. It's the ultimate challenge in the battle to “do more with less,” which is not an unfamiliar term to PR pros, who are used to their monthly retainers being one-tenth (if that) of that same client's ad budget.
This isn't meant to be an excuse for us. It's merely a call to arms and a reality check wrapped up in one.
It's also my gentle nudge to help us realize that the easy way out – using the shiniest new tool out there, for instance – won't always solve the problem or move us forward. We will still need to vet our outreach somewhat manually, no matter how good our databases appear to be. We should realize that much of the press is less interested in hearing about what's “first” and more focused on what actually works. It's also about coming up with the smartest executions for new services and platforms, rather than just playing land grab and putting out a press release about it.
Recently, Google launched its new social media platform, Google Plus, to much fanfare. We've already seen a number of brands jump on board with the service, and perhaps they should, with a key caveat – trying the service out for themselves and their employees, rather than seeing how to market on it first. Google has since reiterated its discouragement of brands using the service, even saying that it would “actively work with profile owners to shut down non-user profiles.” That doesn't mean staffers at companies shouldn't try Google Plus. It's simply a “hold your horses” request.
Just because everything around us is moving a million miles an hour doesn't mean we should refrain from taking a deep breath and making the right, smart decision, rather than always looking to be trendsetters. Again, this doesn't mean we aren't responsible for investigating each and every viable avenue for our clients and teams, but it does mean we don't have to launch something new every single week, especially when we're not prepared to monitor, mix, and mingle on every digital street corner.
Patience, due diligence, and relevance assessment are our friends.
Tom Biro is a VP at Allison & Partners' Seattle office. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tombiro.