Foreword: Make a connection

The role of PR and communications is evolving. it is no longer only about media coverage but taking a central role in driving strategy and content creation, as integrated marketing becomes ever more important.

Michael Barnett

The unifying theme of this issue of PR Strategy, which becomes immediately clear upon reading the seven expert essays Marketing Week has sourced, is the revelation that PR is no longer simply about securing media coverage.

Perhaps it is not so much a revelation as the logical end-point of a long-term progression towards integrated marketing. PR and communications are as much about content creation, social media sharing and audience analysis as they are about contact with journalists.

Today, connecting with target customers or consumers is more difficult. They are bombarded from all sides by demands on their time, they are unimpressed by ‘push’ advertising, they have more choice from brands of all hues competing for their attention. To be considered in the marketplace requires the ability to draw people towards your marketing content, and not just to send it towards them. To achieve this you need the nimbleness to use different media formats according to different situations – images and videos as well as words; to disseminate them through a variety of channels; and to react in the right way to any feedback.

However, as each essay stresses, it is not enough simply to create the content and start pumping it out indiscriminately. Before setting out, there must be a strategy – one that already knows the audience intimately, and can predict what kinds of messages will be best received and where they are most likely to reach the right people.

In a world where the tone you strike in your communications matters more than ever to furthering your business aims, it is perfectly plausible that PR could in fact be the driving force behind this strategy. Who says that it must be devised by the lead creative agency, with every play of your PR hand having to follow the same suit?

PR might have been a discipline associated in the past more with opportunism than with strategic thinking, but, as with all marketing disciplines, 
skill sets are changing along with clients’ priorities. It is as likely that a PR agency or in-house communications executive will come up with the 
killer insight behind a campaign as a marketing planner or copywriting genius.

It is clear that if PR does begin to take a more central strategic role, crucial to this shift will be the ability of communications teams to understand their audience, and to rigorously measure the impact that messages are having.

Both these conditions mean that PR must – again, along with all marketing disciplines – find a compromise where data and creative happily coexist; and where processes and accountability are not the enemies of ideas, but their enablers.

Read more:

PR Strategy January 2014: Devising strategies 
PR Strategy January 2014: Integrating social media
PR Strategy January 2014: Hiring PR agencies
PR Strategy January 2014: Wearable technology
PR Strategy January 2014: Audience insight
PR Strategy January 2014:  Building relationships
PR Strategy January 2014: Context marketing