We have referred to ourselves as professional storytellers for many years. Now, inspired by the impact of social media, it seems that every brand wants to be a storyteller. This just highlights the emergence of public relations from supporting role to featured player in many brands’ marketing mix.
It’s not so much that public relations has changed as has the nature of communications. Most successful brands have used public relations as part of their marketing programs for decades. But the publicity element has often been overshadowed by advertising spending – despite advertising’s high cost and famous lack of accountability.
It makes sense that public relations has taken center stage. Savvy consumers no longer want to play a passive role in a brand’s communications. They want to be engaged. They want to participate. And they want these communications to be up-to-the-minute. Paid media and most other marketing strategies simply can't provide the same timeliness or dialoging opportunities as public relations and social engagement. Only via public relations can a brand leverage this morning’s market trends into this afternoon’s brand opportunity.
Today, brands need to tell their stories more often and to more diverse audiences than ever before. And the discipline best equipped to leverage the shifting media landscape and steward the storytelling effort is public relations.
That’s why, more and more, the creative effort behind brands is originating, not with the advertising agency creative teams, but at public relations firms. Today, it is a rare product launch that doesn’t first and foremost rely upon public relations. This trend may have been fueled by downward pressure on marketing budgets as companies experimented with alternative and less costly ways to reach audiences. Or perhaps it is because the stranglehold that media have had on the marketing process for over 100 years is unraveling. But the end result is that public relations, intermixed with social engagement, is now among the most powerful tools in a brand’s toolbox.
And make no mistake: social engagement is wedded to public relations. They are two sides of the same coin. That’s because public relations professionals have long and deep experience in using storytelling techniques to earn media vs advertising techniques that rely almost exclusively on paid media. These are entirely different skill sets. That’s not to say that paid media strategies are not powerful. They are. But today’s consumers don't want to be sold. They want a reason to buy. That’s why public relations and social engagement are now essential.
When public relations is well-executed, there is no more powerful way to bring a story to consumers. Public relations has finally upstaged advertising and stepped into the limelight.