As many of you know, I'm sort of sick to death of the PR industry talking about why it's best equipped to handle social media for clients. Yes, I know, PR is a master of earned media, forging relationships with influencers, and starting and managing conversations. So, why is it that there are still cases where ad, media, and digital agencies are being hired by clients to do what is squarely in PR's wheelhouse? I've had my ideas about why this is the case, but it really came to light for me at this week's Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum. Mark Pritchard, global brand building officer for P&G, was the guest speaker for the luncheon and he was nothing short of amazing. Not only was he an engaging and animated speaker, but he made sure to give credit to PR.
For Pritchard, his respect for PR goes back to childhood. “I'm a big fan of PR,” he told the audience. “It started at a very early age. Dad was a marketing guy and the first thing he taught me was PR. He took me to work one day and said, ‘I want you to meet Maggie. She is the president of our PR firm and she is my right-hand person.” That attitude toward PR has stuck with him throughout his tenure at P&G , and as he told the audience, he believes that this is PR's time to shine. (And no, he's not a spokesperson for this year's NEXT Conference, though he could be given that our theme is “The Age of Opportunity”).
“Truth is the most important way in which brands and companies can connect with people and we can't build brands through the old ways,” he said. “The power of PR is what gives brands an authentic voice.” And honestly, I don't think that Pritchard was just BS-ing the audience and feeding the egos of the biggest agency CEOs in the industry. Everyone knows that P&G is a tremendous advocate of PR and has seen the value of it literally. But it was Pritchard's advice that stuck out to me: “PR needs to understand in brand building.”
It's not news that in this new world of truly integrated marketing PR may be at a disadvantage because, quite frankly, understanding business has never been a priority or requirement for people entering the PR industry. Now, there are some universities that are rectifying this by making business courses a requirement for PR majors, and that's a good first step. But for those who are already deeply embedded in the industry and came of age in a time when PR was little more than publicity and “flackdom” it's a lesson that still needs to be learned.