PR doesn’t stand for press release

It is still the case that when some businesses think about PR, they automatically think press release. In fact, that has been the starting point for many conversations with businesses with exciting news to share.

However, a press release is simply a marker, a signpost to a much richer and deeper story. It is not the best vehicle for telling that story and its impact can be hard to measure.

When I was a journalist, only two or three press releases out of the 40 or so I received every day made it into the paper, the rest of my time was spent talking to people, scanning documents, listening hard to the news, all to find out the ‘real’ stories; the ones I knew my audiences wanted to read because they had an impact on their lives, an emotional resonance, or represented that rare beast – genuine news – something they had never seen or heard before.

I apply those same rules today. To tell the best story, in the most compelling way, I need to interrogate it. That means building trusting relationship with clients, that afford me access to their business plans, their key people, their reasons for doing what they do, why they innovate, how they innovate and the foundations of the relationships they have with their customers.

I also have to understand their customers. What makes them tick? What keeps them awake at night? What problems need solving? Now data is giving public relations professionals access to even deeper insight and driving the potential for a greater diversity of opportunities.

Over the years that I have worked in public relations, the conversation has rarely been about press releases, it has been about building brands, building trust, creating market opportunity and driving commercial success.

In the CIPR’s eighth edition of ‘State of the Profession’, of more than 1500 practitioners surveyed, 69% indicated they spent time on ‘strategic planning’ – year-on-year the largest rise of any area of practice (10%). It is now the third most common way PR professionals are occupied, behind content creation (81%) and media relations (73%).

Looking to the future, the Forbes Agency Council identified 7 ways the term ‘public relations’ will evolve by 2020. In its survey only 27% of agency professionals think the term public relations will describe their work in four years. A similar US survey published in Forbes in July put that figure at just 13%.

The direction of travel is into the following areas:

– Creating and publishing owned media and strategically managing earned media, events and influencers
– Using data-informed insight to drive narratives that will capture public interest
– Creative brand storytelling that flexes to exploit the full range of mediums and channels our audiences are using and stays with them as these evolve
– Increasing the emphasis on managing curated brand experiences
– More listening, engaging and promoting advocacy from peers and digital influencers
– Increased emphasis on strategic communications that are aligned to business goals e.g. Inbound PR
– Creating relationships with publics beyond media relations, through all marketing channels, both online and off-line. 

The media landscape is changing, the way audiences access information is changing, but three things will always matter in successful public relations campaigns:

– Insight – data will continue to inform, increase relevance and reinforce our strategies
– Creativity – the possibilities for exceptional multi-media content are exciting for all brands and all budgets, large or small
– Quality – your publics are increasingly savvy – treat them with respect

Times have changed, the media has changed and there has rarely been a better time to change the conversation about PR.