Remember the old days of media, when communication channels were clear? You’d wake up every morning and read the newspaper for top newsworthy stories written by editors who tried their best to be unbiased.
Then you went to work and used the phone for business meetings. After a long day, when you wanted to unwind, you sat down in front of your TV to be entertained by programs sponsored by your favorite brands (yes, they had the commercials still in them!). Everything was clearly labeled — information, entertainment and sponsorships all went into different media buckets and stayed in their place.
But all of that has changed.
As technology advances and social trends evolve, lines are being blurred. Commercials have entertainment value. Entertainment utilizes product placement. The news is self-conscious, and biases are more transparent. Even phone conversations are being analyzed and monitored.
So, with all of this change and confusion, how can businesses today communicate their core messages most effectively?
A recent study conducted by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations suggests that combining PR and marketing efforts could be the key to unlocking the future of company branding, exposure and revenue. Below are just a few ways you can capitalize on this interdepartmental synergy to realize greater success in your marketing campaigns and business overall.
1. Streamline outreach efforts.
PR and marketing traditionally have distinct purposes. Marketing’s job is to gather and analyze customer data based on marketing campaigns. And PR’s job is to create meaningful content or experiences that resonate with customers. However, the study above cites that over half of the PR professionals surveyed see their profession overlapping with marketing in the coming years.
A marketing campaign without a captivating story will lose traction quickly, while PR without analytics does not allow businesses to measure ROI. Combining PR and marketing allows you to consider both the art and the science of relating to consumers, which will ultimately boost your bottom line more quickly and effectively.
We advise our clients to diversify their brand portfolio and make sure they are adequately paying attention to all three types of content: paid, earned and owned.
Not only is this marketing philosophy safer than dumping all of your proverbial eggs into one basket, but it also has the added benefit of being a great off-page SEO strategy. The trick is to find an agency or build an in-house department that is great at content (owned), PR (earned), and advertising (paid).
2. Tell the company story in a better way.
Public relations professionals are great at telling a story. Their job is to create an emotional connection with your audience in order to drive brand awareness and foster trust with your company.
The study above found that PR professionals have identified storytelling as the most crucial campaign tool in the near future. However, the avenues for reaching customers have multiplied tremendously in recent years, making it vastly more difficult for PR to understand where to tell that story.
This is where marketers excel: Through data analyzation and A/B testing of campaign results, marketing is able to identify and even predict where the company’s message might be heard the most. Working more closely together will provide insight into how the other department ticks, and that will lead to a more cohesive company story that is sure to be heard by the right people.
I was recently in a meeting where a skeptical client told me that he didn’t think PR resulted in any sales for his business. Because we combine marketing and PR, I was able to go into his Google Analytics platform and show him, through the referral traffic, which publications resulted in sales. In fact, our PR efforts generated more sales for him than his PPC strategy. Many PR companies are not yet fully capable of this type of analysis, but the time is soon coming where it will be a prerequisite to getting a PR contract.
3. Capitalize on all types of content.
In the past, there has been an emphasis on the ability for a company to source organic exposure for their brand, where garnering press coverage was the main tactic for gaining brand awareness.
However, the study reveals that a shift has begun from organic, earned media to owned and paid media channels. Most in-house executives surveyed in the study predict an increase in resources allocated for these endeavors, but as long as Google continues to include backlinks as part of its search algorithm, PR is here to stay.
This blurring of media lines will underscore the need for more alignment between PR and marketing efforts in the coming years. Paid and owned media, when not executed properly, can often come off as too promotional. PR, when not analyzed, can be an expensive endeavor with few results.
What is needed is a merging of the art of storytelling with the science of analytics, and great things will result from it. Artists and data scientists are typically very different types of people, so make sure you hire people who are highly skilled and creative, and who also meet budgets and deadlines. It’s close to impossible to find someone with all of these skills, so you should invest heavily in building a collaborative culture within your marketing team, or hire an outside agency with that same collaborative culture.
By converging your PR and marketing efforts, you will be able to operate more efficiently, tell a better story, and take advantage of more media options to ensure that your efforts provide results. Who knows — you might come up with the next Ice Bucket Challenge.