Does PR Have a PR Problem?

June 16, 2015 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer

Does PR have a PR problem?

PR professionals are outstanding at messaging and positioning brands that offer everything from candy bars to compliance audits. Together we’ve helped grow companies in absolutely every industry there’s ever been. But, as a group, we’ve done a pretty lousy job of doing PR for PR. Oh, the irony! PR is all about building awareness and changing the public’s assumptions about the entity you represent. If someone hired me to do PR for PR there are three assumptions I would definitely work to change.

You Don’t Need It

The rise of digital media has caused many leaders to question the role of PR in modern business. After all, the newspaper industry is dead (allegedly), traditional magazines have given way to blogs, and companies can easily share their own news online. This assumption must be challenged by redefining the value that PR brings to the table. While it is true that traditional media is rarely the most important outlet for a brand’s story any more, the fact that there are no longer a few, well-defined media targets makes PR even more important. Audiences are more segmented, harder to find, and more discerning than ever before. A PR resource that understands a brand’s media landscape and can identify the publications, thought leaders, and messages most likely to catch the attention of the right people is essential in today’s reality.

It’s just Spin and Stunts

Sometimes when I talk about PR, I hear Rodney Dangerfield in my mind saying, “I get no respect. No respect, I tell you.” To a large segment of the population, PR professionals are “spin doctors” who pull off “stunts.” Certainly, our aim is to put our brands and clients in the best possible light, but we do that by creating connections and deeper relationships with whoever might be interested in what we have to offer. The growing trend toward more corporate transparency and the increased ease of access to information should help make the true function of PR more apparent.

You Can’t Measure It

Decision makers rely on data. For many years, it was very difficult to objectively measure the value of PR because there was little data available. This made executives suspicious of PR. Only huge wins (like a shout out from Oprah) could move the needle far enough to prove ROI. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Today’s technology makes it possible to directly measure PR’s impact on business objectives like website traffic, conversion optimization, investor attention, and revenue. If anything, business leaders should have more confidence than ever in the ability of PR to make a measurable impact.

Perhaps it is because no one hires a PR expert to improve the image of the public relations industry that these untrue assumptions have been allowed to develop. It is in all of our best interest, however, to combat them with a more accurate picture of the profession we practice. The good news? That’s exactly what we know how to do.

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