The Role of Public Relations in 2016 Marketing Strategies

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The Role of Public Relations in 2016 Marketing Strategies

Public relations (PR) has been somewhat overlooked in marketing, much like the postscript of a letter; until now. Today’s marketing schemes and environment are making better use of PR to boost brand marketing efforts.

PR has always had a minor supporting role in marketing, whether it was added as an afterthought or minimally used from the start of an advertising campaign. It was rarely thought of as a major player in the marketing scheme. 2016 is the year when that all changes.

Now, with the emergence of programming that allows Internet surfers and social media users to block, opt-out, or otherwise skip advertising, and overly integrated advertising campaigns, PR is ready to play a more demanding role in marketing. It’s going to become a necessary part of every integrated marketing campaign as you will observe from major brands, taking the lead in making the most from PR in their marketing schemes.

An example of how public relations’ role is growing is shown in the deployment of the internal PR team at Coldwell Banker. The PR team, CooperKatz&Co developed the PR concept for smart home tech that will be used in the buying and selling of residential properties. This was one of the shining moments at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Not only will PR help with selling and buying property, it will also boost the brand and has enabled them to partner with other high-tech brands like Nest, CNET and LG.

According to Kathy Collins, Chief Marketing Officer with H&R Block, advertising will still be the main event, but the demand for PR is on the rise. She said, “We are now spending more on PR, especially around our cause-marketing program on improving teen financial literacy, Dollars & Sense.” She also mentioned they are making use of more PR in their partnership with the NBA and on social media.

All clients are well aware that marketing is a multichannel process, and a set of promotional tools that has now begun to require a more active role when it comes to public relations. The power of public relations is becoming more and more popular among smart CMOs who recognize its importance in complete, integrated marketing. The use of PR has accelerated in the integrated marketing campaigns of many major brands.

PR has always played a larger role at Chobani in order to compete with their rivals that spend more money on advertising. The CMO at Chobani, Peter McGuinness says that the growing importance of PR isn’t just a Chobani development, but a “macro-category trend” due to the number of curious consumers and the company’s desire to reach out to them about their brand.

The global chair creative strategist at Edelman, Jackie Cooper claims that PR isn’t just getting a seat at the table, but is getting half the table. Edelman is one of the largest independent PR agencies, so that comment carries some weight in the industry.

Edelman has been working with advertising agencies and brands from the beginning of their campaigns now instead of PR strategies being tacked on after the campaign’s creative process is complete. Adobe Photoshop’s “Murder Mystery” campaign is an example of how using PR from the beginning is beneficial. Edelman handled that PR and won the Gold PR Lion in 2015 for their work.

Even though these brands have realized the power of working with a PR agency, be it a larger firm such as Edelman, or a smaller, boutique firm, from the beginning of a campaign, not every agency is going to understand how the process works. They don’t yet know how to work with their PR partners.

CEO, Claudia Strauss of Grey Activation & PR said “It’s not really traditionally understood by many.” Her team trains every agency staffer to help them determine what will grab the attention of their outside paid assets. According to Claudia, “We’re not buying eyeballs. When you buy an ad, you’re guaranteeing eyeballs, but when you’re earning, you need to engineer the content for news-you don’t really have a choice.”

Public relations agencies are rising up to wield their power that yields well beyond media relations. 360i CEO Sarah Hofstetter says “Marketers really look at how they get the biggest bang for their buck and making their work talkable certainly extends the reach.”

Even though 360i is primarily a digital marketing agency, Ms. Hofstetter says she frequently uses PR elements to come up with ideas for clients that consumers will want to share because they care.

The senior VP-chief communications and marketing officer of New York Life, Kelli Parsons said that the insurance company has observed the need for public relations to integrate their marketing, especially when delivering messages about the brand’s purpose.

Because New York Life has taken this position on PR, lead agencies like Anomaly are being tasked with ensuring their partners they can work cohesively to collaborate and execute effective strategies.

Ms. Cooper of Edelman’s says that ideally, all agencies would get along, but that it’s “a little bit of a turf war, and it would be romantic to say otherwise.”

According to Ms. Cooper, Edelman has no desire to go back to being the PR agency is has been in the past. It will be a new marketing communications agency that is “earned-centric and social by design.” It is changing with the environment in order to focus on finding new ways to measure the ROI (return on investment) from its new campaigns.

You may see agencies adding new capabilities in an effort to create marketing and advertising “one-stop” shops, but that’s not the best way to go. According to Harris Diamond, smart PR firms will focus on their strengths and what they know best.

“I don’t want to see a world where marketing gets so blurred that everyone will be experts in in-store, out-of-home, TV, radio, print and PR,” said Mr. Diamond. “I want to see a world of specialists who can build on each other and exploit an idea by bringing those skills together and having inherent knowledge of each space.”

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