The New PR : Throw out P and add AE
Today’s lesson: There is no such thing as a public relations professional.
Let me explain. Yesterday, our Boston office was fortunate to get a visit from John Graham, chairman of our parent company, Fleishman-Hillard, a global leader in marketing and communications and one of the industry’s most recognized public relations agencies. Graham (former president of FH for 32 years) is a walking testimony of how public relations originated, what it is now and where it is headed.
Maybe that's why his comment about the current state of our field was so surprising,
“It’s no longer PR.”
Modern PR agencies are unique from any other professional service. As Graham pointed out, we wear different hats and offer different things. More accurately, we are a combination of titles: adapters, entrepreneurs and recommendation givers.
1. Adapters. Everyone knows PR is not just about dealing with reporters anymore. Agencies are now managing social media channels and corporate blogs. But it is more versatile than that. Roles and services are constantly evolving and PR agencies have to stay ahead of the curve. Meaning, not only should they develop social media content for programs, but also be able to dive into metrics and analytics in order to close the communications loop. For example, rather than simply writing blog posts, agencies ought to measure traffic and make recommendations in order to improve SEO. Of course, writing and communication skills will always be fundamental requirements, but it’s increasingly more common to see job descriptions looking for Strategic Planners of Innovation or a Digital Media Director of Analytics. The need for creative and analytical skills in PR is in high demand.
2. Entrepreneurs. In-house and agency PR pros have similarities and differences. There are some obvious differentiators; in-house does PR and communications for one company and agencies work with multiple clients. At the end of day, both execute communication programs. Having worked in both settings, Graham’s statement on what sets agencies apart really struck a chord. We are entrepreneurs. We constantly get to work with new clients who have different challenges, wants and needs. It is our job to provide the direction and resources they need to get on the right track and to ultimately help their company grow. The thrill of the chase is unique for agencies -- pitching new business, winning that business, and getting to see a program your team designed being executed successfully and yielding beneficial results.
3. Recommendation Givers. PR pros don't just pitch company news, submit awards or secure speaking opportunities. Technically, anyone can do that. What sets us apart is that we are a trusted resource. Our clients turn to us for guidance and know that every initiative is designed with strategy and goals in mind. For instance, rather than pushing for a corporate profile for the sake of it, we would recommend pitching a corporate profile at a time of record earnings or around the opening of a new corporate office. We are always looking at the bigger picture and connecting the dots for our clients to ensure programs have the most impact.
When it comes down to it, there is no cookie cutter approach to implementing modern PR at an agency. However you want to spell it...
John Graham, chairman at Fleishman-Hillard, visiting the LPP Boston office.