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There was an interesting story we tweeted about a few days ago originally written by our friends at PR Newswire that suggested there is some disagreement about the skill set PR pros need to succeed in today’s environment, and there are three points of view emerging:
- The traditionalist, who values the ability to write, build relationships, isolate and convey key messages and build publicity strategy above all else.
- The digital enthusiast, who values social media acuity, digital content production and editing and coding skills highly.
- The quant, which focuses on data, analytics and how PR integrates with business processes.
At NettResults we like to think of it as multiplying and dividing.
If you have a list of 1,000 subscribers or 5,000 fans or 10,000 supporters in a social media world, you have a choice to make. You can create stories and options and benefits that naturally spread from this group to their friends, and your core group can multiply, with 5,000 growing to 10,000 and then 100,000.
Or you can put the group through a sales funnel, weed out the free riders and monetize the rest. A 5% conversion rate means you just turned 5,000 interested people into 250 paying customers.
Multiplying scales. Dividing helps you make this quarter's numbers.
So it is with PR. You want to ever increase your sphere of influence, or put another way, you want to increase the number of journalist you can call up. At the same time you want to concentrate your time on the 5% (or is it another 80/20 rule?) that don’t just passively receive your news stories, but actively read into them, converse with you and find the story they can report on.
This is why an intellectual rivalry between traditional PR pros and digital enthusiast PR pros is a loose/loose battle. To be good at PR in today’s rapidly evolving media market, you need to be both a traditionalist and a digital enthusiast. Gone are the days when having one Millennial digital evangelist in your PR agency’s office was enough – today each of your teams need to be made up digi-traditionalists.
Oh, and they better be able to measure that success. Results are king.
Public relations and journalists have always had a love-hate relationship; simultaneously relying on each other for their professional livelihood while at the same time holding untold (and sometimes voiced) resentment.
They are like conjoined twins that constantly squabble.
Both professions are miss-understood by the general public, but well understood by the other. Today, the facts are that there are becoming less professional journalist and more public relations professionals. And the trend is getting more dramatic.
In their book, The Death and Life of American Journalism Robert McChesney and John Nichols tracked the number of people working in journalism since 1980 and compared it to the numbers for public relations. Using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, they found that the number of journalists has fallen drastically while public relations people have multiplied at an even faster rate. In 1980, there were about 45 PR workers per one hundred thousand population compared with 36 journalists. In 2008, there were 90 PR people per one hundred thousand compared to 25 journalists. That’s a ratio of more than three-to-one, better equipped, better financed.
Oh, and that was 2008 – in the USA. One can only imagine how those stats have multiplied in the past 4 years taken at a global level.
The researcher who worked with McChesney and Nichols, R. Jamil Jonna, used census data to track revenues at public relations agencies between 1997 and 2007. He found that revenues went from $3.5 billion to $8.75 billion. Over the same period, paid employees at the agencies went from 38,735 to 50,499, a healthy 30 percent growth in jobs. And those figures include only independent public relations agencies—they don’t include PR people who work for big companies, lobbying outfits, advertising agencies, non-profits, or government.
Traditional journalism, of course, has been headed in the opposite direction. The Newspaper Association of America reported that newspaper advertising revenue dropped from an all-time high of $49 billion in 2000 to $22 billion in 2009. That’s right - more than half. A lot of that loss is due to the recession. But even the most upbeat news executive has to admit that many of those dollars are not coming back soon.
So, do PR folks and journalists even need to play friendly. My father was a serious journalists having worked in several countries and eventually settling in the UK writing for The Times and The Sunday Times. I’ve been involved in public relations (both client and agency side) for over 15 years, so maybe my view is bias, but even in the day of citizen journalism and hyper blogging, the scope of a PR pro and a professional journalist rely on the skills, contacts and reach of each other.
Assuming they have to play in the same sand box, how do PR and journalist folks reconcile the difference in number and budgets to hand?
Well, the number game is not so difficult. With the ever-increasing efficiencies of technology, there is not only the ability to communicate with multiple people at once (it was only 15 years ago when the best way to do this was to print and envelope stuff your press release), but we can use these tools to understand and build stronger relationships.
One of the age-old truisms for a PR pro is to understand the media and the journalist’s contributions before pitching. Only ten years ago a PR agency would have piles of newspapers and magazines going back at least a year. Of course there in no reason for this any more.
So we can speak quicker, to more people, with more meaning and at a deeper level then ever before. This goes for PR pros and journalists equally.
What has caused the budget differences? In other words why the increase in PR? I think that is relatively simple.
1 – Globalization. More companies are conducting business outside of their home city, so need to have a PR strategy in place to speak to their potential and existing customers.
2 – The cost to offer PR services has decreased. Therefore more PR agencies can offer the service (it’s still a relatively low cost business to start) and more companies can afford to use these professionals (or carry the function in-house). The fact that there are less traditional media outlets doesn’t really matter – the fact that are so many non-traditional media available just increases the requirement of the PR agency.
3 – Those larger companies that were already implementing an integrated marketing program have spent the past 10 years shifting their expenditure within the marketing functions – money coming from the advertising line item and flowing to the PR and social media line items.
4 – More media is now consumed by more people. So what if there are less newspapers in existence? How many people did actually read multiple newspapers who were not directly involved in the industry? If you were the type of person who read a newspaper in yesteryear, there are still plenty to choose from. And the number of people logging in online to news / views from newspapers, blogs, twitter, facebook etc etc far exceeds newspaper subscription rates in the past. Oh, the fact that so much media is actually free to consumers doesn’t hurt either.
So yes, the PR pro needs the journalist, and for a journalist to act professionally and profitably (they are of course producing and writing more stories, quicker, than ever before) they need the PR pros.
The technology allows for greater communication and sharing of knowledge.
Now all we need to do it get the remaining children to stop squabbling in the name of better media for all.
In January, we told you all about the search for a new definition of PR.
So here it is:
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
The last definition was written in 1982.
Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.
So at least this is an improvement. But is is good enough?
OK - so they managed to get a definition that is just under 140 characters...
My problem is with the last word - publics. I will admit that adding an apostrophe would considerably change this definition, so just to be sure I looked up what defines 'publics'.
According to Wikipedia, this is, "Publics are small groups of people who follow one or more particular issue very closely. They are well informed about the issue(s) and also have a very strong opinion on it/them. They tend to know more about politics than the average person, and, therefore, exert more influence, because these people care so deeply about their cause(s) that they donate much time and money."
Most dictionaries don't think this word exists except as the plural of pub.lic (Noun).
I think what the PRSA is hoping, is that the wider definition as on BusinessDictionary.com is applied: "Communities of people at large (whether or not organized as groups) that have a direct or indirect association with an organization: customers, employees, investors, media, students, etc"
Anyway, PR now has somewhere to hang its hat. What do you think?
There is good public relations and there’s bad.
Let’s face it, some organizations, people and agencies are good at it, and some are not.
But when you are in the thick of it, when you’re spending the money, how do you know?
Oh, that’s quite simple, you wait five months and then look at the coverage you achieved. Wait a minute, did someone in the back utter that they move quicker than that and they don’t want to wait five months? What, you actually want to know now if you are spending time and money wisely? OK, well in that case, there are six sure fire signs of good public relations.
1 – First up, you better have a strategy. A clear, concise strategy. Can you (or the person/agency in charge) define in half a page: - the target market that needs to be reached - the media used to reach it - the message that needs to be communicated - the desired action of the target market - the media tools that will be used to achieve that - and when they will be used?
If you can’t then you’re running your PR strategy in an ad-hoc manner, which is not going to give you the results you need. The number one tell-tail signs is inconsistency… in regards to when coverage is achieved, who it reaches or the messages it conveys.
2 – How are your relationships? It doesn’t matter how great your strategy is if your PR team doesn’t have the best media relationships to get it delivered. This is where larger teams have the advantage. I’ve yet to meet one person who gets on with everyone. So it stands to reason that if you have a one-person team or freelancer on your PR they can’t have relationships with all the core media. It takes a diverse team of people at various seniority and experience level to be able to hold all the core relationships.
This is doubly important if your target includes multiple social-economic targets or possibly more than one language. Look at the make up of the journalists and editors you are trying to reach and make sure your team are similar.
3 – Responsiveness and consistency rules. PR is not a tap you can just turn on or off as you feel. It’s more like a snowball pushed down a hill - once started it will keep on rolling and growing if you treat it right (and if you don’t treat it right it’s like putting a tree in front of the snowball). To keep that snowball rolling and growing you need to be ever responsive to the media (never leave a man hanging) and you need to ensure you fuel the media machine with consistent, newsworthy and relevant information.
Tell-tail signs - if your PR team can’t respond to you within a coupe of hours, then they are not responding to the media quickly either. And if you don’t have a constant funnel of news and ideas being worked on, then it’s akin to your snowball rolling over concrete.
4 – Reporting and feedback. At NettResults we make it simple for all our team members: for a successful client/agency relationship there are two things that drive success – media results need to be obtained and there needs to be constant reporting with the client. A campaign that has great results, but there is little client/agency interaction or lack of reporting, will fail.
Media relations is a constant feedback loop. Multiple minds need to plan it out and everyone needs to be watching what is working and what is successful. This is the only way that momentum can be gained and we can drive a higher return on investment.
5 – Business acumen. Look at it this way - there’s this funnel. At the bottom of the funnel is PR, above that is marketing and above that is ‘the business’. While I’ve had bosses that have said to me they can write a press release about anything, irrespective of whether they understand the subject, you can’t play in the PR space successfully unless you understand business.
Much as we would like to think that media and PR teams are the bees-knees – there is always a higher being that is driving the business. The PR team needs to be aware of this and have a true understanding and respect for when PR plans need to be modified due to a business requirement. Tell-tail signs – have a conversation with your PR team about your business, not the latest PR news, but about the actual business. Do they talk sense?
6 – Is there a level of trust? What this all comes down to is trust. A client needs to be able to trust that their team/agency is proactively working on their behalf. There has to be bilateral trust between the PR team/agency and the media.
More than most industries I have witnessed, trust is central to PR success. Like all professional service business, we’re talking about a professional’s time. How it’s being used and how efficient it is. We’re talking about abstract terms. We’re talking about things that people get emotional about. Wrap that all up and the lubricant that keeps the cogs turning is trust.
These six simple concepts will give you good insight into how successful your results will look in five months.
Can you really define something like the definition of PR through consensus?
Well at this point I would have defined consensious, but of course Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, is blacked out today (good for them). Webster is my second go-to and they provided:
a : general agreement : unanimity <the consensus of their opinion, based on reports … from the border — John Hersey>b : the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned <the consensus was to go ahead>
consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.
Consensus? Consensus is the negation of leadership!
Seth Godin blogged about it today. One option is to struggle to be heard whenever you're in the room... Another is to be the sort of person who is missed when you're not.
The first involves making noise. The second involves making a difference.
And so it is with succssful public relations. We take the unusual step of saying to our clients (either during a pitch or after it is successful won) that frankly we don't care how many press releases we are asked to distribute. All too many agencies seem to want to calculate their retainer or projects based on the number of press releases. This doesn't make sense to us. So long as each and every press release is newsworthy and relevant we don't mind working on one a day.
Off course I've yet to meet a client that had that many newsworth releases... in fact back in 1999 I was speaking to a journalist who was compaining to me that Microsoft sent them a press release every two days. They actually didn't care that the releases were every two days (they were allready clearing 100+ emails from their email of usless pitches), but they did care that 99% were irrelivent to the title they wrote on. Of course it wasn't Micorsoft's fault - just the agency at the time that wanted to spam all journalists.
Successful PR campaigns and to add to that - campaigns with longevity - require a spokesperson that makes a difference - or to put it another way, one that will be missed if they are not commenting.
How is your spokesperson doing?
Every company has a organizational chart - a ladder of power, but how this structure functions during a crisis must be clarified with all the stakeholders in the company; particularly the communications department. A crisis can hit at any time, and the company needs to determine secondary command structures in case key decision-makers are unavailable at the time.
Not only is it important for those to know who need to spring to action (and how those people are contacted) - it is equally important that everyone else in the organization knows they can not speak on behalf of the company or to the press. Something that is best handled in a company employee handbook.
Organizations also need to decide which situations warrant which spokes person, and plan accordingly.
Most importantly, the spokes people need to be media trained in advance. Effective spokes people should receive professional media training and should be well versed on how to deal with the press. An organization's spokes person need not necessarily be the most senior staffers. For example, in some cases, the CEO is not the most efficient spokes person due to experience, knowledge or geographical location.
I just read with interest the article that Meg O'Leary wrote on PRNews Once Upon a Time There Lived a Plot: The Importance of Storytelling. I've long been an advocate of storytelling in marketing and public relations. It just makes so much sense.
It's worth understanding why storytelling works. It's in-build into our DNA. We grow up listening to stories and frankly they are a darn sight more interesting than 90% of PR copy-writing out there.
A good story is one that touches people in some way. As PR professionals (storytellers), our mission is to involve the audience, make them interact with us and the story, even if it is just in their thoughts or core. A really good story has a sense of truth and resonates with some basic universal aspects of being human.
But it does more than that. We have stories because they:
- Build credibility
- Unleash Emotion
- Permission to Explore
- Influence Group-Thinking
- Create Heroes
- Vocabulary of Change
- Order out of Chaos
There is a simple way to look at good stories. Back in my youth I was involved in a movie production company and was asked to read my fair share of movie scripts. It very quickly became apparent that stories fell into one of two camps - 'usual people in unusual situations', or 'unusual people in usual situations'. Think about it. Think about your favorite book. Think about the last movie you went to see.
I believe there are six tips to think about when creating a story for PR purposes:
- Know your audience
- Keep it simple
- Stay fresh
- Be honest
- Demonstrate credibility
- Spark interest
There are also eight elements that in essence make a good story, the:
- inciting incident
- call to action
- dreadful alternative
- quest or progression
- other characters
Lastly, thanks to Professor Brian Sturm from UNC Chapel Hill whom in 2007 had the foresight to record one of his lectures. There is a lot of value in the 45 minutes, and the first 8 minutes are fabulous.
Why not write a story today?