Most of us prefer to place our trusted business affairs, such as strategic outreach through public and media relations, in the hands of experienced practitioners. Whether with our attorney or IT vendor, our airline pilot or our accountant, we value experience when the job is complex and the outcome critical to our success.
This same principle applies to the selection of a public relations and marketing adviser. Effective public relations does not happen by gravitational pull; rather, it is the outcome of incisive strategy skillfully executed, managed and measured. It can be taught in school – but it is learned only through experience.
Public relations is commonly mistaken as the domain of generalists. At many firms, “paint by number” strategy drives “fill in the blank” planning to create “cookie cutter” campaigns. Although cookie cutters can rapidly create dozens of identical cookies, they rarely leave a distinct impression. They certainly cannot convey a firm’s unique value proposition.
Contrary to popular misconception, public relations with an impact is the discipline of depth. In today’s business world, successful practitioners are those who can step outside the box of traditional agency practice, and embrace the communications trends that are working today. Communication is no longer an arena in which businesses dictate their messages to consumers. Consumers, with multiple communications channels available to them, now have the power and the desire to form their own opinions based on a survey of the information available to them.
Indeed, media consumers now have the power to create their own messaging and counteract corporate messaging that they feel is inaccurate. This is a Web 2.0 world, which is being increasingly and consistently defined by consumers. Businesses who are not agile and able to modify their messaging and tactics to utilize and work with this trend will quickly become irrelevant to their markets and unable to expand their reach by targeting new market sectors available through emerging communications channels.
As such, effective public relations practitioners must be knowledgeable not only of their clients’ business models and areas of expertise, but also in target market behaviors with regards to media consumption. Practitioners must be able to utilize innovative, multi channel strategies to deliver messages to consumers with messages they will understand and through their media of choice.
Public relations professionals must develop the ability to integrate and consolidate all communications channels to reach target audiences, and understand the synergies that exist between all communication media. They must combine traditional marketing and communication experience with new technology and market research to create outreach strategies that are effective, relevant and cutting-edge.
This principle is demonstrably true in specialized, niche industry practices, including technology public relations, financial public relations and mortgage technology public relations, to name a few. Although clients in these industries retain a deep understanding of current technologies as means to solve specific problems, they often do not have the knowledge to utilize technology in a way that produces effective marketing and clear communications with their target audiences. In realms such as these, savvy communications experts who are independent of traditional agency “cookie-cutter” approaches and organizational restrictions can make a significant impact on behalf of their clients.
The Internet is truly the realm of small businesses and innovative solutions. Big box providers depend on their existing brand recognition and market penetration to do their marketing for them, leaving a huge vacuum of potential for smaller business seeking a competitive advantage. Smart public relations practitioners who understand how to utilize the Internet to support an overall integrated communications and marketing strategy will be poised for rapid success by connecting their clients to relevant messages through emerging media channels.