The pervasiveness of Social Media and Content Marketing have raised some big questions for Public Relations. It’s time we got to the bottom of them
If you know me, or read my blog, you will know I don’t like being called a PR Guy. I prefer Comms Pro. The reason has nothing to do with PR and everything to do with people’s perception of what PR is and what its supposedly not. Sadly it’s not just an external misunderstanding. Today even within the industry people incorrectly define their roles. As someone who can’t stand to be pigeonholed this irks me no end, but as we all know… PR has a PR problem!
That aside, PR (the idea that individuals and organisations need help relating to the public in a way that improves understanding) is what I do for a living. I’m a Comms Pro that works in PR. Why am I making this point? Frankly, I’m sick to death of people saying that social agencies, content agencies, and the like, are the only legitimate options when it comes to helping organisations and individuals capitalise on these emerging marketing trends. The fact is, you’re not born a social media expert, any more than you are a content expert. We are all professional communicators, but there is only one profession equipped to tell a complete story for clients, and that is PR. Before I tell you why, I want to correct a few other misconceptions:
– PR is not spin. While it sometimes involves massaging a story, this is simply a case of understanding that there’s more than one way to tell it. If you know anything about emotional intelligence, you’ll be aware that reading a room or audience, and adapting your style or story to suit, is absolutely critical to success. Storytelling is a strategic asset.
– PR does not stand for press releases. Media relations is an aspect of PR but, as the name suggests, PR is about reaching the public, by any means. That said, PR people understand how journalists can turn a story sideways and subsequently know how to mitigate a crisis. A copy writer or social person may or may not have this experience so why take the risk? It takes a long time to build a good brand but only seconds to ruin it.
– PR is not an afterthought. Don’t create a marketing campaign, or an advertisement, and then give it to PR to drive interest. PR is at its best when briefed on the primary challenge you are trying to solve, not when focused solely on the marketing activity, case study, or blog you are trying to promote.
The reality is PR is equally capable, and in most cases better placed, to run social and content programs for clients.
4 reasons why PR should run social and content programs:
1: To truly engage with and influence people, you need consistency. The more links (agencies) you have in the chain, the higher the chance it could snap. Even the smallest cracks can cause problems. You might not see it, but those looking on from the outside will.
2: Content is what PR people have been creating since Adam was a boy. The idea that it drives return for marketing might now be popularised, but that has more to do with agencies trying to carve out a space for themselves in light of the traditional publishing industry’s struggles. If you have content-focused services within your PR agency, you’re better off using them. Relational maturity is important.
3: PR is social! They are native propositions. How can you be social without the public? You certainly can’t have public relations without it. Everyone knows you need to have an integrated approach to your marketing for it to be effective. Don’t leave this to agencies that compete and have conflicting interests. It makes no sense.
4: You can’t have an effective social program without good content, and you can’t produce good content without an understanding of all the influencers you are trying to engage. Basically, you can’t do either effectively without PR as the backbone.
Whatever you do, make your decisions based on the people inside the agency in order to understand whether they have the right skills and expertise. Do they have the right package? You don’t buy a steering wheel, seats and brakes from different suppliers in order to assemble your car. You buy a car that has already been put together because it’s optimal. The same rules apply to your marketing. If you push ahead with a strategy that doesn’t pivot around PR by the time you see the Wrong Way sign it could be too late.
– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter