Permission to make PR a powerful tool

The Chartered Institute of Marketing paper that Alan Mitchell covered in his article (MW January 22) argues that marketing communications have descended to a state of “pointless deluge”. The answer, argues the CIM, lies in moving to an “age of consent”. An age in which marketing communications are customer initiated, trust driven, maintained by a two-way relationship and neutral across media.

The CIM paper, without knowing it, does a good job of explaining the key elements that make PR so powerful. In fact, the power of PR was highlighted in a Marketing Society survey last year – it cited PR as being the most effective communications tool over the past five years and the most important over the next five. Why should this be so?

First, customers select which media they consume and as such PR is self-segmented – we all choose what we want to read. PR is rarely considered intrusive. Second, a necessity of PR is to understand the audience and, by definition, what the reader wants to read about. This process in part is carried out by the PR practitioner but ultimately by the journalist, who is the gatekeeper of consumers’ tastes. Get it wrong and the magazine loses readers.

The third element is creating messages that matter. Messages that communicate a company’s proposition while ensuring they pass through the editorial selection process. This is where the true skill of the PR professional is tested.

The final step in achieving marketing nirvana is cost effectiveness. The impact of PR compared with the small percentage of marketing

budgets it consumes says it all. It is perhaps no coincidence that arguably the biggest brand of the 21st century so far, Pop Idol, has been built using PR. The CIM has explained the reasons why. The challenge for PR companies is to integrate PR thinking more closely into the broader marketing context.

David Hargreaves

Managing partner


London W1

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