Are we still ‘in PR’?
Or are we better described as practitioners in consumer or brand communications? This is a common question which vexes many a PR-chief, especially when in the process of establishing a new agency brand. PR or Public Relations sounds innately old fashioned and does it really describe the integrated multi -platform brand campaigns that we run today?
However, whilst the descriptor ‘advertising’ has been replaced by ‘creative’ by so many of our partner agencies in the industry, the term ‘PR’ today in fact still rings as true. Just a simple search exercise reveals that the term ‘PR’ is vastly more significant. Whilst only 10-100 UK monthly searches use the term ‘consumer communications’, between 10,000 and 100,000 searches use the keyword PR.
PR has traditionally been a ‘jack of all trades’ (unkindly some would say ‘master of none’). When I first kicked off my PR-life, an aspiring account executive was required to master skills from client reporting, to photography styling, media sell-ins, event management, specialist influencer liaison, copy writing, design and issue management.
Fast forward twenty years and the media channels available to us have changed beyond recognition. Whilst earned media has always sat firmly in the heartland of the PR practitioner, we are now equally adept in merging a seamless campaign across earned and paid via traditional and social media.
To be successful we have always had to think like journalists. Wild Card (and subsequently Wild West) has been built on that ability and those relationships. We are practised in identifying and nurturing those influencers that matter; be it journalists, broadcasters, bloggers, chefs, nutritionists, experts or of course the ‘celebrity talent’. Much has been written about the power of influencer endorsement and engagement above advertising and it is the PR practitioner who has the innate understanding and ability to deliver this whether through editorial or paid engagement (or a combination of both).
Until remarkably recently I would be in a meeting with a prospective client who when asked to articulate the brand’s PR requirement, would specify the output on the number of press releases issued per month. It didn’t seem to matter as much that these temples of communication were failing to land with the consumer. Wild Card’s work has never focused around one single-dimensional piece of editorial content – the press release has been dead for many years.
Yes, we work with approved segments of copy and messaging but the skill is in shaping and phrasing to fit the plethora of different audiences we are engaging with. Both direct to consumer and via the media.
Content is king is the oft-chanted mantra and PR’s roots lie squarely in the development and articulation of beautifully crafted, credible editorial content. Never before has PR deserved its place right at the heart of a communications plan more than it does today. Editorial content is our heartland and comfort zone. Building relationships and securing endorsements is equally as important today in the digital world as it is in PR’s traditional base of print and broadcast. The term ‘story teller’ is over used but still very neatly articulates what we do.
Measurement, or rather evaluation, of PR has evolved massively since the term was first coined by Edward Louis Bernays back in the 1920s. It is easy nowadays to track how many times a piece of content is shared or engaged with via social media. And due to the public nature of social profiles it is simple enough to see who is engaging and what action they are taking. We have our own bespoke evaluation tool – Smart Media Index – which assesses both quality of media and quality of coverage. An algorithm sits at the centre, tailored to individual client’s requirements, which calculates a number of points per exposure generated. An invaluable quick check on monthly and annual delivery.
We are always looking to evolve and provide a point of difference but It would be a foolish move to eschew the descriptor ‘PR’ from our offering.