From "the press release is dead" to "PR is dead. Long live SEO" (or variations on those themes), there have been lots of catch phrases and other memes going around to suggest that public relations might be going the way of the buffalo.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The PR industry is going through some growing pains and significant change, but the importance of effective communications has never been more pronounced than in today's integrated media environment.
1. In the social universe, messaging is key
It isn't enough to engage on social media, or have lots of "likes" and followers. If an organization isn't communicating its key messages, then the social media effort is a waste of time. That's where the professional communicators come in.
2. Reputation is a C-level concern
Reputation is top of mind, even at the executive level, and especially at the biggest companies. We're even seeing chief reputation officers being appointed. Good reputation management is good PR.
3. Crisis is chronic
Recent history has shown us how crucial effective crisis management is. And in today's fast-paced media landscape, an ultra-quick response with finely-tuned messaging is a must. Incidents like the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf have shown us how good the executive level is at handling crisis management without good PR counsel: not at all.
4. Visibility is both an art and a science
The rise of social media and SEO metrics have convinced some that brand visibility is solely a matter of numbers. However, good positioning is also the product of craftsmanship. We can't forget that the quality and targeting of the message is of paramount importance.
5. Marketing people are not necessarily social media geniuses
It is popular to say that social media management is the domain of marketing. But social media is about communities and engagement, and the goal is to achieve earned influence. While PR has some work to do when it comes to mastering social media, it is still the best equipped to leverage the social message.
6. The media is alive and kicking
The scenery has changed, but the media remains the primary influencer of public opinion. And while PR people have had to grow and adapt to keep up with the media's new modus operandi, they are still the pros at this.
7. It's the economy, stupid
Many organizations, especially smaller ones, are on tighter budgets and don't have as much to spend as they might like on integrated marketing. PR is the most cost-effective way to communicate to a broad audience. It's just a matter of convincing this to clients and prospects.
8. Content and context
From blog posts to bylines to webinars to tweets, good content builds the face of the organization. PR should steer that ship because communicators know when, why and how best to send the message. Providing the right context gives content the chance to really flourish.
9. Values make your brand
Especially in the era of the Global Village, an organization's values are of utmost important to the public, and make up a bigger portion of its brand strength than ever.
10. There is, in fact, a ROI
But don't just slap a dollar value on media placements and call it a day. Part of the challenge of communicating ROI is convincing the C-level that PR builds a reservoir of goodwill, and that public confidence in a brand is the measure of that goodwill. Quantifying public confidence can be accomplished through a combination of surveys, media tone analysis, traditional ad values and circulation numbers, market penetration, brand buzz, etc.
But however the ROI is calculated, it must be clear that it is about more than just dollar signs. As companies like Johnson & Johnson have learned, building a reservoir of goodwill can help companies overcome crises during which their reputations are under scrutiny. And as Apple will likely demonstrate after the passing of former CEO Steve Jobs, a bulletproof reputation can protect a brand even during trying leadership changes.
Doug Flora is an account associate at Morrissey & Company.