The latest evidence is a great discussion going on in LinkedIn started by Rick Vargas, who asked: “Social Networking: Is the death of Public Relations on the Horizon?”
Most of the commentators have rightly answered the question in the negative, saying that social media in fact has reinvigorated PR and emphasizing that PR was never just about media relations.
I think the fact that this question has gotten raised so often in the last few years has to do with a fundamental misunderstanding of PR. And, perhaps, we as PR professionals have no one but ourselves to blame for this.
Ask the average business person what PR is and I bet the person will say it’s all about doing press releases. And while PR professionals still do press releases – to get an idea of the seemingly bottomless pit of them check out prnewswire.com or buseinsswire.com – that is only a small part of what PR does. As a number of the commentators on LinkedIn also indicated, it doesn’t require tremendous brain power to write a passing press release (though it does take some training to write one that is readable!).
Where PR professionals can raise the bar is when it comes to setting the overall messaging strategy for a company. While marketing should lead the charge, PR needs to be a key part of the process, helping craft messages to they resonate for media, bloggers and the average client.
PR professionals will then translate the messaging into key tactics of content creation and relationship building.
PR’s evolution is a natural extension of the changing purchase funnel. Much has been written about the fact that the traditional purchase funnel of Attention, Interest, Desire and Action is no longer applicable. Online search has changed the funnel making it more of a loop than a funnel as consumers consider more brands as they get closer to making a purchase.
Here is where PR can add tremendous value by providing the proper messaging for this extended consideration stage and by finding new ways to engage and relate to prospects.
Below are three ways PR can be even more useful during this expanded consideration phase – with a special shout out to an especially useful blog post by Heidi Cohen on ClickZ.
- Provide “Content at a Glance.” Prospects when they’re first getting started what easily accessible information. PR professionals and their ilk can create FQS, introductory videos, enewsletters, blog posts, tweets – and yes, press releases.
- Provide “Hardcore Content.” Prospects as they dig deeper want more engaging content. PR professionals can create articles, white papers, thought leadership videos, case studies, testimonials and demos.
- Provide Post-Sales Confirmation Content. After the sale, PR professionals can instill further customer loyalty by continuing to provide engaging content that educates and adds value. Companies like Vocus and BusinessWire in the PR space, for example, are good about providing continuing educational webinars for their customers.