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HomeOpinionsHere’s your headline: The dream of true integration can become your reality

Here’s your headline: The dream of true integration can become your reality

Integration is the difference between the kind of headline that can make an article and the kind that only makes it as far as the client deck. It’s time for us all to walk the talk.

Courtney Engel, Grey

 

These days most agencies trumpet the promise of acting as one big dream team, with collaborative specialists providing seamless solutions to marketer challenges. This promise – often touted to win new business and invigorate the agency model – can yield varying results.

That said, if you’re reading this column, you’ve likely been tasked with giving your PR expertise and selling an idea that came from another team. You’ve heard the big, creative concept, and now it’s your “job” to write a beautiful New York Times headline.

On the bright side, you’re being asked to deliver the headline because creatives have gradually understood and embraced the authentic power of PR to impact business. But the challenge remains because not every great idea is readily, easily “PR-able.” Sometimes you get the idea, and it needs some TLC to make it headline-ready – and it’s here that you have a decision to make.

You can take two approaches when asked to plus-up something that, in its current form, won’t break through in today’s media landscape: Feel empowered to help shape and shift the idea or quietly write that unrealistic headline, knowing it’s pithy but is never going to truly sing the way it could.

If you find yourself on the former path, I have good news: You are part of a truly integrated team that has cracked the power of PR. Conversely, if you feel you can’t voice your opinion, then you still have to make major strides in your team’s model.

Integration is the difference between the kind of headline that can make an article and the kind that only makes it as far as the client deck. It’s time for us all to walk the talk.

I’m lucky enough to be part of a truly integrated team, having started the PR practice at Grey 10 years ago. Through this experience, I’ve learned what’s necessary for PR pros to lead needed change, build better ideas, and stray from drafting overly bold story angles that can create unrealistic expectations with the client.

Publicize yourself internally

Don’t be afraid to talk about your expertise with a bit of bravado – sometimes. This doesn’t mean being a braggart but rather naturally inserting your recent wins, big features, and past accomplishments into conversation.

If you can casually mention that you, too, have won industry awards, then you can level the playing field with the creative teams. I can’t tell you how many times talking about our PR Cannes wins for The Gun Shop or TNT’s Dallas not only earned attention at the table but made everyone understand the potential of integrated thinking in action.

Lean into authenticity

As brands become more cynical about paid channels, the “earned” element of the POEM (paid/owned/earned media) equation holds more weight than ever before.

However, to really earn an impression, brands in action need to be authentic. That term – authentic – can’t be overused when developing ideas. You should use common sense if you feel your team is going down an unrealistic, stunt-y rabbit hole. You hold the key to cracking the integrated model that delivers on what everyone desires – earned coverage that doesn’t require a #partner or #sponsored post.

Know what you’re selling

If you are going to be brave enough to help shift the concept, you need to have constructive add-ons or changes. It’s important to remember that the idea needs to ultimately get PR if you are, in fact, that expert in the room.

As such, your best bet to make changes and shift the idea is to lean into conversation. For example, start by saying, “From a PR perspective, it would be helpful to…” Remember: Frame your shift in the context of the value you drive.

Don’t provide a New York Times headline example

Unless you are 99% sure you will land the Times spot, you need to craft other realistic example headlines. Clients know when you are pulling out a New York Times headline for pitch theater, so don’t be that PR person. And express the value of your alternative headlines that do bear value. We’ve seen the power of the right headlines in other publications. While broad publication is wonderful, your message can find the right audience in a variety of places.

This is the time for you to have your voice heard and shift the perception of our practice to one that provides thoughtful insight. You are just as creative as the next person. Have strong common sense and have a serious BS meter. Speak up and sell it.

Courtney Engel is SVP activation, talent, and PR at Grey.

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