We wrote a few weeks ago about the fact that PR software is not likely to take your job, but rather to make you much better at it. But even though you are unlikely to be replaced by a bot, you might be displaced altogether if you cling only to traditional PR tactics and language. The goals and principles of PR haven’t changed, but the context in which it is practiced has experienced a dramatic shift. The smart move for PR professionals who want to succeed is to prove that you can excel in this new landscape and be a major force for the brand.
For decades the impact of public relations activities was generally hard to quantify. PR pros usually focused on getting positive earned media mentions, but even when they did, it was difficult to understand how many people were really reached, whether those people were an important audience, and how the mention impacted their behavior. Executives lived with this fact and continued to spend money on PR because many aspects of the business were managed based on gut reactions and fear of the unknown.
The digital revolution helped change all of that. Now leaders have access to loads of data to inform decisions about everything from product development to sales and marketing. They don’t have to wonder how the public is reacting to a new offering or news item because the public will tell them. Marketers can now demonstrate the effectiveness of every campaign and prove a predictable, repeatable ROI. Why then should executives fund PR efforts that may or may not be paying off? The short answer is that they won’t. These days, you bring data, or you go home.
How to Adapt
If you want to be among the PR pros who survive this shift (and many will) you need to change your game. There are a few questions to ask yourself:
Are your PR goals aligned with essential business metrics? The number of mentions you get or the number of releases you push to the wire are not objectives that will earn executive attention and budget. Instead, choose goals that directly tie to business performance metrics like new website visitors, lead conversions, search engine rank, and revenue.
Can you deliver data that helps drive decisions? Modern PR professionals should serve as both the mouth and ears of an organization. That means keeping your finger on the pulse of what is happening in the marketplace. Are there demonstrable trends that leadership should know about? Are competitors shifting position or winning with certain messages? These are insights that will get you a seat at the table.
Are your strategies in harmony with those of other business functions?
PR used to operate in a silo, but that can no longer be the case. According to Forbes, 60% of marketing executives believe PR and marketing will become dramatically more aligned shortly. It pays to begin this now and demonstrate how PR can boost the impact of paid and owned content and help drive marketing and sales strategies. What’s more, it is important that you use the same language as other revenue generating functions to describe your impact to the bottom line.
Is data informing every decision? PR resources are usually scarce, and budgets are limited. There are a huge number of channels for information distribution, but strangely fewer well-placed journalists to help spread your brand's message. In the face of these challenges, data is your best friend. To whom should you pitch your latest news? There’s no need to guess. The right PR analytics software can help you find the perfect person to deliver the message to your desired audience. How can you craft a campaign that will boost your SEO? Data again can tell you what’s worked before and what is likely to work in the future. The idea is to get the most out of every activity you undertake by looking for relevant information to validate each choice.
We don’t mean to imply in any way that the sky is falling for PR professionals. It isn’t. In fact, the opposite is true. PR is poised to become more valuable to organizations than ever because new monitoring tools and technical capabilities make it possible to measure the impact of PR to the bottom line and to operate based on data like every other part of the business. But old-fashioned tactics and thinking will not do. If you want to be acknowledged as a new kind of PR pro, demonstrate your analytical approach and comfort with the new toolset.