I’ve found that too many professionals continue trying to isolate the public relations discipline (or the value it provides) from the rest of the communications/marketing mix. In this day and age, this makes little sense. I’ve also continued to watch with amazement how more often than not, the discipline (itself) is still only equated to “old time” media relations concepts…especially as it refers to measurement.Like many others, I joined a few Linkedin industry group discussions a while back. Usually, there are too many topics covered to actually keep up on a regular basis. But, every once in a while a thread of a conversation or debate catches my eye. Here’s one professional’s take on the issue at hand How Do You Measure Your PR Success? . While he makes some valid points, I’ll refer back to the problems I just laid out to respectfully disagree with many of Drew’s assertions.
For starters, I disagree with his theory that PR campaigns cannot be measured based on sales achieved or rate or return. I’m paraphrasing, but Drew elaborates by stating that PR is a long term investment that can increase awareness of a product/service/expertise. But, that doesn’t mean skyrocketing sales will be the result.There’s no doubt that PR professionals need to be careful when over promising that any individual campaign/program will lead directly to sales. This is especially the case if the product/service being marketed is not really unique, or the market is already saturated with competitive look a likes, or if the company behind it has almost no visibility (which means a lack of credibility with target audiences). That said, I’ve witnessed many recent campaigns leverage the integration of very creative social media, traditional media and experiential disciplines to generate real, honest to goodness sales.
One great example from a few years back is Crocs- children’s rubber shoes that have became a huge phenomena. I remember when the company made a tremendous outreach to mommy bloggers and national media years ago. If memory serves, the specialists behind Crocs created some type of online contest to draw moms in…and it worked! At that early point in the company’s growth, it spent very little on advertising. So, public relations really helped to directly impact the bottom line, as well as create a longer term, trusted reputation with moms everywhere.While it’s often hard to separate where public relations and other marketing disciplines begin and end these days (because of the Internet), my point rests on the fact that the digital world has created real sales opportunities for companies that leverage PR the right way, where they never existed before.
Drew also tries to provide clarity on the difference between the value of an ad and an editorial article. I agree with his premise that an article tends to be more credible, but I’m not really sure how he came to the scientific number that it’s worth 3 to 10 times more than an ad Regardless, I think this debate should be put to rest for ever. Because it simply isn’t relevant anymore.
Today, communications disciplines (and what their end products create) matter much less than making sure that target consumers are communicated with when they want and how they want it. Again, the Internet creates a real blur between disciplines and the channels we use. The value of an article versus and ad isn’t relevant anymore. Now, we should only care about how a client’s messages might resonate. If that means combining a steady blogging campaign, with hard hitting in-market events, where target media might then write about your product (because they saw it talked about in blogs and through online media buys), so be it.The latest buzz phrases in our industry are “channel and discipline agnostic.” The premise is spot on. We need to worry less about defending public relations against advertising because we’re all treading on each other’s turf now anyways. The article, by itself, is dead (as is the ad). Reaching the consumer through messages that are indeed in motion are what matter now.