To my fellow PR professionals,
The professional practice of public relations is approaching a tipping point. We can either look to the future or cling to tradition — a past quickly disappearing on the horizon.
That’s why I’ve dedicated so much time to writing these blogs and identifying services and strategies that, even as the traditional media market continues to change, will allow PR to thrive. I am also acutely aware that even if every PR pro across Canada begins delivering every possible new and exciting service, it’s all for not if they don’t also champion a big paradigmatic shift. Instead of accepting a supporting role and happily playing second fiddle to other marketing functions, it’s time for PR to embrace the creative and strategic lead.
Despite the challenges facing our profession, and we know they are legion, I contend that there has never been a time during which PR was in a better position to lead the way and explore new frontiers with our clients. Social media engagement, generating social proof, influence marketing, brand journalism, viral content creation, encouraging user-generated content, engineering unique experiences, thought-leadership, grassroots word-of-mouth buzz and more — the channels, tactics and outcomes that consumers prefer and brand managers yearn for — are inexorably linked to public relation and a natural evolution of the specialized skills and knowledge that Public Relations Professionals have always been known and relied on for.
The same simply can’t be said for advertisers, media buyers or experiential teams. Yes, some aspects of what marketing communications have become and the strategic approaches that are the result of new technologies are also connected to other disciplines. There’s no question. Just like there is no question that there is room at the table for all these disciplines and social media agencies too. And all do good, sometimes great, work. But the fact remains that the most significant new strategic approaches are rooted in building relationships. Whether directly with consumers or with/through influential third parties, relationships are the key to a brand success and the red thread holding everything together.
Context itself demands that PR should be looked at to lead the development of creative integrated marketing communications strategies.
We cannot, however, expect the brand teams or agency partners we work with to simply hand over the keys and allow us to drive. Before that happens, we have to show we are ready by competing for and winning the opportunity. And there’s the rub. We have to change how we think of PR before others will. We have to embrace what we do, and know the potential of what we can offer. We have to stop running from the fact that we are PR professionals and agencies by calling ourselves ‘communicators’ or ‘writers’ or ‘relationship builders’ or ‘influence gurus’ or… whatever! We are all of those things but why limit ourselves, our creativity or our strategic purview when Public Relations encompasses all of these things. Show me a PR agency or professional running away from proudly proclaiming PR and I’ll show you a leadership team that isn’t confident that it has the goods to deliver.
As I said, we’re at a tipping point. There’s no question. But a brighter future, one where more brands trust PR and invest more in the value we deliver is within reach. We just have to seize it and, in doing so, determine our own fate. We have to step into the light, step up to lead and never be afraid to step out on a limb. Sure, there’s a chance we may fall. We can always fall. But if we don’t start the climb, we also know that means that PR fade slowly into irrelevance. Now is our time and it has to be now. Now is the time for PR and we reach for the stars!
Are you with me?