3 paramount truths for PR pros

A willing embrace of social media trends, understanding of measurement, and focus on relationships are all crucial for a successful public relations career. Consider these insights.

The PR industry is thriving—and so are communicators who take advantage of changing trends.

In April, The Holmes Report wrote that the PR industry grew in value by 7.4 percent in 2016—up from a 5 percent increase the year prior.

The Holmes Report wrote:

The research reveals that the Top 250 PR firms reported fee income of around $11bn in 2016, compared to $10.7bn for last year’s Top 250 ranking. The world’s Top 10 PR firms account for $5.1bn, a 3.3% increase on 2015, led by strong performances from BlueFocus (up 17.2% in constant currency terms), Weber Shandwick, Golin and Ketchum.

Accounting for the numerous firms that reported outside of the Top 250, along with the vast number of smaller firms that do not provide revenue figures, the Holmes Report now estimates the size of the global PR agency industry at $15bn, up from $14.2bn in 2015.

With this growth, PR pros are gaining responsibilities.

An increased focus on social media and mobile content consumption—along with shrinking newsrooms and shortened crisis response times—means PR pros often must perform balancing acts to accomplish a wide range of efforts.

Jake Jacobson, director of PR for Children’s Mercy Kansas City, has a few crucial truths for PR pros looking to succeed in today’s changing communications landscape:

1. Embracing social media is a necessity.

PR pros are now taking a slice of the social media pie, which can help them work with other departments in their organizations. It can also help them prove their worth and secure bigger budgets.

Jacobson says:

Rather than having just one “social media person” in a company (who, for a time, unfortunately, was the intern), now I’m hearing how several people from across the department may have a percentage of social media awareness, engagement and analytics woven into their duties.

“What that means for the social media holdouts is simple,” Jacobson says. “It’s time to get on board and up to speed.”

If knowing the ins and outs of Snapchat and Twitter doesn’t seem important to you, consider the following scenarios that Jacobson poses:

Imagine a communications colleague explaining in a meeting that they can’t follow up with you afterward because they’re “not an email type of person.” You’d never tell your boss you’re unable to pitch a story to The New York Times because you don’t have a home subscription.

That’s not to say that PR pros must know everything about social media.

Just as it’s not wise for an organization to have a social media presence on every online platform without considering whether its audience is there, PR pros should wisely spend their time learning and experimenting with social media strategies. It’s also hard to keep current with each platform’s updates and best practices without the help of social media articles, how-to guides, conferences and webinars.

Jacobson advises that PR pros should at least understand social media’s value, along with the benefits, risks and language of each platform.

“Proficiency may not be an expectation of your role,” Jacobson says, “but ambivalence or ignorance can no longer be laughed away or shrugged off as generational.”


Learn more about embracing the changing face of PR from JakeJacobson along with speakers from Norwegian Cruise Line, Nat GeoWild, Associated Press and more at our PR Daily World Conference atNPR in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8–9. Save $200 by registering now.

2. Relationships are more important than ever.

Though PR pros’ responsibilities increasingly involve digital strategies and tactics, fundamental industry elements remain crucial.

Jacobson says he’s his best PR pro self when he “can closely relate to the person on the other side of the pitch.” It’s also when Jacobson most enjoys his work in the industry.

“My favorite part of being a PR professional is the ‘relations’ part of media relations,” Jacobson says.

Even introverts can embrace this crucial element of the PR industry by listening to co-workers’ ideas, connecting with journalists via Twitter or answering another PR pro’s call for insights.

Nurture relationships before you ask for something, especially when it comes to media relations efforts. The more you can focus on building a thriving network with journalists, editors, bloggers and more, the less you’ll need to blast your press release to a long list of media contacts—often with scant success.

“The best stories (and relationships) are the result of getting to know reporters, how you can help, what delights and frustrates them and which stories they love,” Jacobson says.

If you’re wondering whether the time spent cultivating relationships with influencers, reporters, clients and potential partners is worth it, Jacobson offers this advice:

PR is a relatively small world with huge potential for PR professionals who are helpful—and little room for those who aren’t. Whether you’re pitching a story or responding to a request, realize that every interaction is an opportunity to strengthen or stifle a relationship.


3. You can’t get by without measurement.

“Unlike salespeople who can get easily be evaluated and paid by commission, PR pros often must balance qualitative and quantitative results when measuring success,” Jacobson says.

That doesn’t mean PR pros should hide behind the oft-heard excuse that they’re not “numbers people.”

Jacobson says:

Nearly every number you can attach to PR jobs comes with its share of asterisks or anomalies, but at the end of the day, your boss and their bosses have to have a way to decide and justify whether, when and how to give you a raise (or rebuke).

“The big question is deciding what to measure and report,” Jacobson says.

You can get started—and stay effective—with measurement by being strategic, defining and prioritizing your goals and analytics, and articulating what the metrics mean.

“Every organization has different strategic goals, so make sure your metrics align with the organization’s needs,” Jacobson says. “If you’re reporting results to the vice president, chief marketing officer or chief executive officer, make it relatable to their goals.”

Prioritizing your objectives and metrics can help you decide what’s important. It can also enable you to focus on the strategies and tactics that boost your bottom line, instead of getting wrapped up in reporting efforts.

Jacobson says:

It’s easy to think of 50 different ways to measure PR and social [media] results, but you’re getting paid to spend more time producing results than measuring them. Find three or four key metrics to report up the ladder, with a few additional insights available for your boss, team or department.

You must also articulate what the accrued analytics mean, especially if you’re hoping to grab more budget dollars or prove to your clients or bosses that your efforts are paying off.

“Make sure you can explain your metrics in layman’s terms,” Jacobson says. “Unless you’re at an agency, trying to impress your corporate or nonprofit CEO with PR industry jargon is usually a bad idea.”

Learn more about breaking down silos and succeeding in the PR industry by joining our Twitter #RaganChat at 2 p.m. Central time today. Jake Jacobson is our special guest. You can also learn more by attending PR Daily World Conference at NPR in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8–9. Save $200 by signing up here.

(Image by WOCinTech Chat via / CC BY 2.0)

Topics: PR


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