PR at a Crossroads: It’s Time to Think Differently, Part 2

Earlier this week in Part 1, I outlined some of the significant downward pressure our industry is facing today. Advertising agencies have been capturing what rightfully belongs to PR and integrated firms by leveraging their creative capabilities and keying off of the public’s lust for videos, pictures, and stories. Clients have been slashing marketing budgets and doing so while increasing their demands on us. The industry is looking at single-digit revenue growth. Many firms have moved to do what Racepoint did more than five years ago — to blur the lines of advertising and PR into an integrated offer. It will take time to get it right. The trouble is, that won’t be enough.

Today, we operate in a content-driven, issues-based era. Surviving means having a clear-eyed understanding of clients’ key audiences, how these audiences consume information and how they prefer to have it delivered to them. These days, the most effective campaigns actually touch a small universe of high-impact influencers. Those that drive these campaigns know how the consumers of information they are targeting prefer to consume information, and how they engage and act on it. The most sophisticated consumers actually don’t distinguish between paid and earned. Rather, they rely on the voices they trust and the influence their peers provide.

Armed with these insights several years ago, some learned the hard way, while I integrated Racepoint’s teams and our offer, I began a multi-year investment in a media-mining and audience-analysis tool. We coined it FieldFacts. FieldFacts helps us analyze content information and consumption trends, and identify the platforms that market makers and the audiences they choose to engage. It combines software with human intelligence to understand how and where people are influenced by media — paid and earned — and by whom. FieldFacts continuously sweeps an enormous range of content searching for keywords selected and refined by our teams to discover and evaluate the relevance of influencers, conversations and competitor messaging, and spot trends and opportunities.

We have been excited with the results.  Our strategists and content developers create and execute campaigns that speak to and through these influencers. Our campaign planners more effectively plan and minimize client campaign investment in order to maximize ROI. Our consultants routinely monitor the landscape to ensure our clients and we don’t miss any cycles on critical issues or developments. We are able to respond faster and precisely. We can discover and evaluate the emerging influencers, and monitor their activity on our existing network. And yes, we like to think we can inform their efforts.

But while technologies like FieldFacts are important, they too are not enough. Our industry depends upon our ability to craft a storytelling lifecycle for our clients that garners attention in earned media, is brought to life with creative, visual content, and is extended through social, paid media and influencers. The integrated teams of paid, earned and creative professionals develop narratives and place them across the various channels of information. Social and paid media amplify the story. Creative visual and digital content the team also creates provide important support.

It is the dedicated professionals that drive this effort. The success of our industry will ultimately depend upon our ability to continue to attract, retain and develop the best people we can find who love their jobs, and their companies, and are dedicated to our profession and the clients we serve.

Coming Next, Part 3: Thought Leadership

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