In the early 1900’s, Edward Bernays, often referred to as “the father of Public Relations,” believed that the primary role for his fairly new industry was that of counsel. He believed the public relations profession had a duty to collaborate with modern media of communications and societal groups in order to provide ideas to the public as a whole. Over a hundred years later, this definition still holds true, even though our modern media of communications has become largely rooted in the ever changing and overly saturated world of the Internet. Our societal groups are now consumers interested not only in mere products and businesses, but also what those products and businesses stand for and represent. The need for thoughtful, creative, and savvy PR and brand marketing is greater than ever.
In the last 10 years alone, we have seen dramatic industry changes. Gone are the days of simply compiling a comprehensive press kit, blasting a mass email pitch to the handful of relevant publications and news sources, and making a few follow-up calls for good measure. Today, with the expanse of the Internet, users consume and experience news in a variety of ways—starkly different from the days of newspapers and print magazines being primary sources of information. To be relevant, successful PR campaigns must engage consumers on a variety of online and social platforms, invite discussion and involvement, and to constantly be ahead of the curve of pertinent issues and topics in their clients’ fields. Although traditional media outreach still matters, every successful public relations campaign now has new social and digital components as well—components that require fundamentally different strategies for success.
Consumers must wade through endless waters of content available for consumption, successful marketers must be consistently devising new and innovative boats to reach them. Rather than simply selecting among relatively few reports crafted by journalists seeking to uphold standards of impartiality and faithful reporting, consumers need to consider the source and the agenda of those generating “news.” The vast variation in the credibility and worth of content today brings to mind the adage attributed to Groucho Marx: when everybody is somebody, then nobody is anybody. To cut through the din of this latter-day Tower of Babel, PR professions need to articulate the integral story and message and then use a cross-disciplinary blend of traditional and new PR approaches to get that message heard and appreciated.
To accomplish today’s PR objectives, there is no shortcut to the hard work required. Starting with an honest representation of each brand’s unique voice, effective PR requires each company to find and become familiar with target audiences; then decide which tactics and outlets will be most effective to connect and develop lasting relationships with them. This bespoke approach helps harness the massive influence of social media and grass-roots community outreach, in addition to industry-related events and involvement.
The only constant in life may indeed be change; but putting the power of modern public relations to work may well be a change for the better.