The State of Public Relations Today

Posted by Paladin on January 16, 2017

“This is a great time to be in PR,” said Rich Jernstedt, senior counselor at Porter Novelli. “The lines that used to separate marketing, advertising and public relations no longer exist. You’re a communications person who can do a lot of things and solve problems in different ways.”

That was one of the key takeaways from PRSA Chicago’s 5th Annual Agency Leaders Breakfast event, which took place earlier this year. Sponsored by Paladin’s Chicago office, the event brought together 15 agency leaders to discuss the current and future state of communications.

Paladin’s Chris Mordi, a former PR executive, attended the event and said that he heard three themes from the leaders. First, there’s no longer the ability to hide from measuring the effectiveness of communications programs. Second, the profession is working to harness new technologies to drive awareness and business results. Lastly, practitioners need to think beyond traditional communications functions.

Bring Your Measuring Stick

“Clients are buying solutions that can build business,” said Carrie von der Sitt, executive director of creative at Golin.

“When it comes to proving results, measurement is king,” she said. “Every dollar clients are spending has to show a return.”

Mordi said one leader told of how his client watched Google Analytics during a TV segment the agency booked. This showed them, in real time, the kind of demand the segment generated.

“Many companies continue to think of audiences as monoliths,” said Christina Steed, executive vice president at Flowers Communications Group. “You have to think in more of a segmented world and drill down, especially in the multicultural marketplace. There are small, distinct groups within the larger audiences.”

Public Relations and Technology

Another way that PR pros are combining new technology and measurement is by including video in media outreach. “When pitching the media, we include the words, but we also add ‘snackable’ bits of video to complement the written pitch,” said Steed.

Mike Santoro, president of Walker Sands, shared insight on the growth of the tech industry in Chicago and their need for comms agencies to drive their messaging and build awareness.

Think Outside the Box

Jernstedt said that communicators have to think beyond their traditional ways of doing business.

“You can no longer do comms-level thinking about a company. To provide true value, you have to understand a company’s business and how it goes to market. That way you can capture more comms opps in the company,” he said.

Jernstedt recalled a CEO asking his communications person to write scripts for the company’s customer service representatives, because her team had the best writers in the company.

“You have to know who they need to talk to and the channels they are using and suggest comms strategies to make them better and more aligned. It will prove your deeper value,” he said.

More Leader Insights

Bill Zucke, midwest director for Ketchum, shared team-building strategies, including the importance of team members with general expertise.

Shane Winn, general manager of Chicago Allison+Partners, spoke about helping your client focus on newsworthy stories.

Amy Littleton, senior vice president at KemperLesnik, talked about leveraging ad buys to further extend public relations and social media activities.

The speakers at the PRSA event unanimously agree that measurement is vital, and that things are in a state of flux in public relations. What new aspects in public relations are you looking to learn more about? Are you leveraging all your measurement tools? How are you doing in combining traditional public relations with all of the digital advertising information needed to get your messages out?

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