The PR and comms industry is ripe for disruption. Major changes are occurring on how earned, owned, and paid media strategies must work together to drive businesses forward. Tech and data advances are quickly changing our industry, and those who adapt to and embrace these changes will become the most successful pros in the industry.
Through an understanding of today’s current obstacles, how to integrate functions with the marketing team, and how to leverage technology to deliver meaningful results, you’ll be able to capitalize on the emerging tech that will soon change the way PR pros do business.
We invited Cision’s Steve Arentzoff, VP of digital marketing, and Nick Bell, VP of marketing communications, to share their own perspectives.
Arentzoff and Bell take a collective approach to outlining the struggles modern communicators face, unpacking how comms pros need to holistically integrate their strategies with other marketing functions, move from batch processes to a continuous campaigning model, and need to start utilizing modern planning and analytics tools, completely changing the way they work and the results they deliver.
- Modern communicators struggle with obstacles and disruption
- The connection between and convergence of paid, earned, and owned media strategies
- Breaking down marketing and PR silos with data-driven planning
- How to become a modern communicator
- Where does influencer marketing fit in?
- Moving forward in the right direction for marcomms
Read on as Arentzoff and Bell give their advice on how to evolve from the present state PR mentality into a modern communicator frame of mind.
If we don’t change our focus on how tech and data can help chart our success, we won’t be around in 10 years
Nick Bell, Cision
Silos still creating problems
Arentzoff: Marketing and PR both focus on communicating the stories of brands and organizations, but these two disciplines have historically approached their campaign designs with extremely different methodologies and objectives, and have had different accountability expectations.
It hasn’t helped that advances in marketing and ad tech have radically changed how marketers buy media, execute campaigns, manage owned marketing channels, and measure results, while the comms discipline hasn’t experienced the same disruptive transformation. This has led to a siloing off of the PR and communications functions, which makes it harder for companies to achieve their integrated comms goals.
Bell: Activities such as investor, analyst and media outreach, social media, content marketing, and even demand generation are often seen as unrelated, and so the two areas tend to work independently and fail to unlock the full potential. But what’s interesting is how much overlap there actually is. For example, the marketing team can amplify an earned media mention through content and social, and everyone wins.
Legacy systems and old-school processes limit success
Bell: This is a challenge we see every day when we work with new customers who want to be able to truly measure earned media results. They’ve been struggling with outdated processes – or even a lack of processes and tools – that have previously kept them from measuring the impact their content has on their business, and so they’re unable to validate the ROI content marketing and public relations deliver.
PR pros can no longer rely on vanity metrics and still use outdated tactics such as equivalent advertising value. If we don’t change our focus on how tech and data can help chart our success, we won’t be around in 10 years.
Arentzoff: PR in particular has been behind other marketing disciplines in terms of leveraging analytics and metrics, but finally technology has been created specially to measure business results such as revenue, calculate the ROI for PR outreach, and allow comms professionals to start employing the same types of campaign optimization techniques already being used by their digital marketing counterparts.
Social media results may be declining
Arentzoff: Thanks to the often-unpredictable algorithm changes on social media platforms, compounded with trending news topics such as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, many marketers are biting their nails about seeing less-than-impactful social media advertising results. They worry about what the future holds, and are uncertain about where to invest that money.
It is critical to align the objectives of the paid and owned teams with the earned media team. Plus, cost-conscious companies don’t have to hire a full-time PR professional, especially if their PR needs aren’t full time
Steve Arentzoff, Cision
Bell: This is a good thing, particularly for the PR industry. You can’t rely on a single marketing or public relations strategy, so diversification is best. Right now, brands should put more attention into media outreach, because both paid and earned media have proven effective.
Smaller companies may consolidate marketing and PR roles
Bell: Companies with tighter budgets will want to avoid redundancies in positions, but sometimes combining marketing and PR roles costs the company more. While marketing and PR employees should work together, it’s important to realize each field has its own specific qualities and required skillsets.
If a brand is serious about achieving continuous and measurable earned media coverage, it needs to invest in hiring PR pros with the necessary experience who are skilled in utilizing modern communicator techniques. Aligning marketing and PR objectives under a common strategy, but with individual expertise, allows an amplification of the blended campaign results because the paid, owned, and earned campaigning works in harmony to support and reinforce the common story delivered to the desired audiences.
Arentzoff: It is critical to align the objectives of the paid and owned teams with the earned media team. Plus, cost-conscious companies don’t have to hire a full-time PR professional, especially if their PR needs aren’t full time. Brands can save money by hiring a PR agency for a few hours a month and see a tremendous impact, but building the processes to align the disciplines and campaign execution before outsourcing something such as that is vital.
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No one is clear on what marcomms’ role is with GDPR
Arentzoff: Privacy is becoming more and more of a concern, thanks to the recently launched General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union. California just passed the California Consumer Privacy Act, so it’s not only an EU issue. But when it comes to PR pros pitching the media, what’s OK to do? What will get them in trouble?
Bell: Cision has made its own efforts to ensure it’s compliant with GDPR, and in general, it’s a good thing for marcomms pros to be more diligent in ensuring the people they contact want to hear from them. It’s a very daunting issue in the short term, but we’ll look back a year or so from now and give it some credit for helping us be better at targeting the right people at the right time who want to engage with us.
Justifying marketing and PR budgets is difficult
Bell: Anyone who has had to pitch a boss on approving a budget knows he’s going to have some hard questions to answer: “Why do we need this expense?” and “What return will it get us?” Up until recently, many PR and marketing activities were difficult to measure, and it was challenging to justify investing in particular activities. For example, take branding – it doesn’t have a direct ROI, so some execs might not think it worth an investment, which is a big mistake.
Arentzoff: PR has historically faced the same challenges in budget justification. However, technology solutions have recently become available that allow the measurement of the business and revenue impact from comms programs, so earned media investments can now be evaluated and justified in the same way paid and owned media investments are.
We’re on the cutting edge of big changes in being able to measure earned media. The problem is many PR pros are still trying to justify budget with metrics such as advertising value equivalency and share of voice, which just won’t cut it anymore.
Today’s marketing and PR pros can solve these problems by
- Investing in technology that aids in measuring and justifying marcomms investments
- Diversifying their marketing and PR tactics
- Working cross-functionally with marketers to reach common goals
- Ensuring the right people with the right skills are onboard