Public Relations is Not Buried in the Digital Graveyard

It’s been a long-standing trend to note how public relations (PR) has been dead for years. Literally for years. Over the past few months, the topic has popped up again more frequently when mixed in with concerns about the validity of news from traditional media outlets and the abundance of user-generated content online today.

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Skipping to the punchline, no PR is not dead. If you believe that PR is dead, then you have a misperception of what PR can encompass. For many years, the terms media relations and PR have been used interchangeably, though they really never should be. A narrow definition of PR that strictly focuses on the (important) skill of defining story angles and obtaining placement in major media outlets doesn’t capture the overall function which is:

The business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institutionMerriam Webster Dictionary

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. – Public Relations Society of America

Nowhere in there is a mandate to use traditional media channels. The goal of public relations is communicating and establishing strong relationships. This is otherwise known as reputation. Each organization has a reputation and it shapes every interaction that a prospective customer, partner, or employee has with that entity. If you’re not working to maintain and positively enhance that reputation you’re ignoring a primary factor on bottom-line success.

When talking about PR, the following efforts all play a role in integrated success:

  • Audience assessment and positioning
    • Identifying your target audience and what is most important to them is an essential first step. Without a clear understanding of what you want them to do, it is a waste of time to throw tactics out in the marketplace. What is it that you believe the target community needs to know? Where does your organization fit in providing meaningful value to that audience? Where are the gaps in connecting those two positions?
  • Messaging
    • Based on the audience assessment, having specific messaging that speaks to them and provides the “so what” factor that is meaningful to them is essential. Without quality messaging that connects, everything else will fail.
  • Content strategy and development
    • With a strong position and messaging established, the focus can shift to outbound efforts to engage and cultivate the relationship your organization seeks to build. Start with a strategy on how to produce the content needed to amplify the voice of the organization. Tailored pieces of content for Earned (media relations), Owned (social media, blog, website) and paid (advertising, sponsorships) allow you to make the most of public relations efforts generating both strong reputational benefits and bottom-line growth.
  • Media relations (online/offline)
    • Storytelling and securing coverage remains a powerful tool in helping define and enhance the reputation of any organization. The change is that the potential for earned coverage has expanded dramatically with the expansion of online outlets. The view that media relations has gone away is foolish. It has evolved.
  • Social media
    • Owned content such as social media creates additional, tailored channels where organizations can speak directly with their community of customers and prospects. Messaging and tailored calls to action can deepen the relationship between the organization and its community. Earned coverage through media relations only enhances the value of social with quality links and content that reach the audience on their preferred social channel.
  • Corporate social responsibility programs, community relations, sponsorships
    • Each aspect of an organization makes an impact on how the broader community will feel about your brand. Quality reputations are invaluable in maintaining public trust. Think of the Mayo Clinic brand, which has been thoughtfully associated with quality care for decades as compared to fly-by-night care providers seeking to capitalize on the billions spent in healthcare. Every interaction makes an impact. Every online impression also makes an impact- positive or negative.

To maximize the impact of PR, these programs work together to build the mutually beneficial relationships that all organizations seek. Once a desired brand position is defined, every action whether online or offline has an impact on how that organizational brand is perceived. An ideal integrated program features offline activities (community events, sponsorships, traditional media placements) that spark interest in the organization. Those efforts can be funneled to drive interested audiences online to take the next step in engagement with your brand (landing page with a call to action, social media engagement/follow to learn more, downloading content that helps them fill a need) and cultivating a positive reputation.

PR is not dead but alive and well, actually thriving in the digital era. Think of every opportunity, online or offline, to enhance the reputation of your organization and build digital influence with key audiences.

To see examples of how integrated offline campaigns can drive results in the digital world, please contact us by filling out the form below.