Jennifer Attias, Grace Blue Partner, comments on how progressive leadership can help to reshape the industry.
PR is booming. There is a positive vibe in the industry at the moment that PR is, at last, getting the recognition it deserves. Recent PRCA research found that 76 per cent of PR and communications professionals believe board directors see a strong link between reputation and company financial performance, with 87 per cent stating that CEOs are supportive of PR.
The CIPR is also optimistic about the future of PR, president Sarah Pinch quotes from its recent survey: “the 2,000-plus respondents to The State of the Profession survey say PR now has the opportunity to take full advantage of the other areas we are being asked to get involved with; design, sponsorship, all things digital – and of course, helping organisations set their business strategy.” Pinch adds that in her view, PR at its best when it focuses on behaviour change, saying that this means: “Understanding the market clearly. Listening. Responding. Engaging. Debating. Agreeing. Disagreeing. It’s about building relationships and occupying the exciting and demanding space between an organisation and its public.“
According to Chris Owen, director at PR firm Grayling PR, it is only modern PR that is booming, old PR is done for. Owen says: “The state of the PR industry right now depends much upon how you define ‘PR’ – confine it to the realm of media relations and the traditional coverage-generating sausage factory and it is most definitely dead. However, define it as it should better be seen, and go back to the purest sense of the term, ie, ‘relating to your public(s)’ and PR has never been in better shape.“
Owen believes that the shift toward social media and digital assets, alongside content marketing has put the ball firmly in PR’s court, “as out of all the disciplines in the ‘creative’ bucket, PR is the one which most closely aligns to creating and maintaining dialogue and conversation. Advertising is effectively shouting and hoping the right people listen; PR is about identifying who matters, and then finding out how best to talk with them (‘with’ being the optimum word, rather than ‘at’).”
Describing how PR should now be at the heart of a brand’s marketing strategy, Owen says: “The creation of content that engages and encourages passive endorsement (through likes, RTs, shares, etc), puts PR at the centre of a brand’s whole ecosystem and means it should sit firmly at the planning core.”
All the potential for PR to take centre stage is exciting, but it also means the industry must be adaptable enough to cope with constant technological and market changes. Jennifer Attias, partner at PR agency Grace Blue, says: “PR is facing massive changes as a result of this and I believe this is a crucial time for PR agencies to adopt an ‘agile’ way of thinking to thrive in this new climate. Agencies with the most agile, visionary and forward-thinking leaders will be the ones that flourish, and the ones that will shape the future of the PR industry.”
A key area in which PR must develop is in the realm of content creation. Attias explains: “The role of content in the communications sector is growing at an increasingly rapid rate. Brands have changed from being publicists to publishers which now need authentic, distinctive and engaging points of view as they continue to build and distribute their story through various platforms. Content and storytelling have always been the pillars of PR, and clients are increasingly turning to agencies that have these as core values.”
Robert Anderson, director of innovation at PR agency Good Relations, agrees with Attias about the power PROs have to be the main storytellers of brands. Anderson highlights that storytelling isn‘t about creating fiction, but about telling the truth: “They say truth is the first casualty of war and similar accusations have been levelled at PR in an age of spin and spam. Selective presentation, murky off-the-record briefings and non-recollection are favourite spin-doctor tactics. Meanwhile, the trouble with storytelling is that 'stories' can sound like they've been made up – fiction.
“People have fallen on the sword of truth before, but we now know truth sells. Even political party leaders have been holding their hands up to the truth in recent election debates. Studies show authentic brands and businesses are enjoying greater levels of recommendation and ultimately sales.
“We're entering a new era of 'truthtelling', which is why the PR industry is in its strongest ever position. We've always been experts in finding compelling and creative ways to make true stories contagious – truths that will earn their place in the cultural psyche. The truth is on our side.”
if you want to hear more about why the future of PR is bright, tickets are still available for PRmoment's PR is Changing event on May 21st.PR Moment