Back to PR Basics: Public + Relationships

I can recall the semester I took my only PR class.  I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy the actual course work. I hated writing press releases, probably because I wasn’t really any good at it. Fast forward. I find myself at a global PR agency.  I had the chance to work on projects that sought to change behavior, change lives. It was fast-paced, ever changing and a chance for me to truly grow. No matter what people say, communications is critical and can solve problems.

I never thought I would love public relations – the truth is – I love communications and I appreciate the role it plays in our lives – both professionally and personally. When trying to explain to people what I did, I never uttered the words “press release,” except to deny that it was the only thing I did. Instead, I spent more time trying to explain the difference between PR and advertising, and clarifying all the practices of PR.

Today, I feel like I spend less time explaining PR, and more time defending it. PR isn’t about spinning, it’s not just about media relations and pitching, and it’s not DEAD. PR is rooted in relationship building – with employees, consumers, stakeholders, key opinion leaders, and yes – media. Like Shonali Burke shared in her post, “It’s [PR] a business function that supports and helps to achieve organizational goals and objectives.”

Today, there’s an undeniable shift. Communications and marketing focus back on our consumers, and further away from media relations and pure sales.  Our role as communicators will require a mindset shift. The way and the channels through which we communicate have changed, and they will continue to do so. We no longer hold the power – to be honest,  I’m not sure we ever did. But today and in the future, our consumers drive our overall strategies and even our tactics.  We need to be more timely and even more relevant to get through our audiences’ filters. We need to spend more time asking better questions, then giving our consumers what they want. Gone are the days where we simply use market research to drive a 2011 plan. Enter the days when we ask for feedback, and we implement their recommendations. The days when companies take transparency and accountability to a new level.

Domino’s Pizza dramatically shifted their approach after their YouTube crisis situation. Today, they asked consumers for feedback on their product, they changed their product, then asked for consumers to send in photos of their actual pizza. Talk about a high-risk effort that I hope will get them great rewards. Regardless, I respect you more for your efforts.

PR isn’t about the number of impressions that we can garner. It’s about listening to the conversations happening in print, in broadcast and in the social space. From there, it’s about finding opportunities to answer questions, provide customers with the service they deserve and helping build better relationships among companies and their key audiences. These relationships have never been achieved through press releases or “spinning.”

And if companies believe that social media should be in the hands of marketing, I have to ask: Does it matter what team manages your social media presence, as long as it’s done right? Whoever owns social media and the relationships to stem from engagement, this group must truly believe in a customer-centric model, where sales is not a goal but an outcome. Until then, let’s hold tight on implementing – and think more about the questions we should be asking.

What are your thoughts on PR and the evolution of communications? How do you explain your role in your organization?

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Posted on September 15, 2010, in Marketing, Media, Public Relations, social media and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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