I've been in public relations most of my adult life.
I started out as a beauty and fashion editor at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar before eventually started my own agency. Back then PR was all about securing media - landing feature stories, getting print mentions, and, of course, nailing coveted broadcast segments. We measured our success in clippings and impressions.That was then, this is now.
Enter not only the digital age, but also the age of accountability. We have to produce results in the form of sales that clients can measure - cases moved, market share, sales growth. So we can't just rely on the media anymore to build our brands. We have to look at the marketplace much more holistically, and get a handle on the influencers that persuade consumers to buy (or not to buy).
Sure the media is still important, depending on the product category. In many cases, print media still drives a lot of the influence, as does television news. But in almost every arena, we are seeing additional influencers enter the picture, driving the consumer perceptions that generate sales. And guess what? With the growth of Foursquare and recent launch of Twitter Places, it's going mobile.
Think about it: healthcare providers are very strong influencers that we, as PR professionals, need to leverage. But so are other key opinion leaders like pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and online resources - even those dropping tips via geolocation services. In any category, influencers could still include celebrities, bloggers, brand activists, and consumer products experts.
Who's the ultimate influencer, with the advent of digital channels and social media? Consumers!
Consumers are sharing information, trading tips, and influencing purchase decisions among each other like never before. They are the biggest influencers as they work their social networks, finding friends old and new who share the same experiences.
So the new PR includes strategically mapping out all the influencers on a brand and working them just like we used to work the media. We have to show them how relevant our brand is not only to them, but also to their vast network both online and off.
Maureen Lippe is founder and CEO of Lippe Taylor.