'If we don't value our ideas, why should anyone else?' PR360 panellists ask if PR can 'do it all'

A panel at PRWeek's flagship, two-day PR360 conference - in Brighton on 9 and 10 May - will address the question: "Can PRs do it all? And should they try?" Here, two panellists offer their take.

Click here for more information about PR360 and to book tickets.

David Child, head of communications and marketing, Thomas Cook

Q: Has PR became a more important part of the marcomms mix in the past couple of years? And if so, why?

The role of earned activity as part of any marcomms campaign has grown in importance thanks to the ubiquity of social media to our lives. PR has tended to lag, however, in punching above its weight failing to recognise the need to quantify return on investment and prove its worth. Often what passes for earned wouldn’t have left the cutting room floor from a classic PR-centred brainstorm and as PR professionals we need to use the terminology and boardroom credibility of the more traditional advertising language to make sure the discipline we hold most dear is put centre-stage.

Q: How well are PR agencies adapting to the era of marcomms integration?

I see many great examples of PR agencies showing that getting people to talk about your brand positively without the need to put a huge amount of paid support in can be hugely successful. I find the challenge is often getting access to the right internal stakeholders who have seen the power of great PR activity and can link that to commercial return. By having a wide range of stakeholder relationships and understanding their personal and professional ambitions PR agencies can better adapt their approach to suit the company needs.

Q: What (if any) are the downsides of PR professionals expanding their remits into other marketing communication disciplines?

PR is inherently stressful as a discipline. Many of us have been brought up not knowing if the carefully planned campaign we’ve worked on will land in the way we want with journalists and get the traction we hope for with consumers. Knowing that your well-crafted ad campaign is seen by your intended audience is inherently more pre-programmed and so there can be a tendency for PR people to agonise over a piece of work and build in sufficient layers to "guarantee" it gets traction. As with all great marketing communications, the best ideas are the simplest – and the ideas that last longest are quickly grasped and easily shared.

Nik Govier, founder and CEO, Blurred

Q: Has PR became a more important part of the marcomms mix in the past couple of years? And if so, why?

For sure. It’s always been important but more and more PR is being recognised for its strategic potential. Channel neutral pitches are becoming more common, and – from personal experience and anecdotal evidence – PR agencies are often holding their own. We recently pitched against an advertising agency for a global brief and won. Clients get that adding paid to an inherently shareable idea is going to be more powerful than the reverse. More importantly good comms strategy is really good business strategy and people are waking up to that.

Q: How well are PR agencies adapting to the era of marcomms integration?

I think there’s still a long way to go. This is a bit of a bug bare of mine. Our industries ideas can be – and often are - good enough, but all too frequently we low ball them and therefore undersell thinking. If we don’t value our ideas, why should we expect anyone else to? We need to have the confidence to add a zero on the end and know that it’s worth it. There’s absolutely no reason why a good PR agency can’t be the lead creative agency.

Q: What (if any) are the downsides of PR professionals expanding their remits into other marketing communication disciplines?

The blurred lines are here to stay. Everyone is adding capabilities and swimming in new lanes. The downside simply lies in making it up as you go along. Not advisable.

Click here to book tickets for PRWeek's must-attend PR360 conference.

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