Having owned a PR firm for decades (YIKES!), it’s been interesting to view the evolution of our profession over time.  

Public relations was once pretty much a “one-trick pony.”  Clients came to us to get free editorial coverage, primarily in print (newspapers and magazines) and electronic outlets (television and some radio).  The more newsworthy the topic, the more likely they were to get free publicity about it. 

Our “expertise” was in being able to recognize what was truly news (or at least an interesting take on something in the news), package it appropriately to appeal to editorial decision-makers, and then relentlessly pitch it to the media outlets that were a good match for the story because of their prioritized audiences.  This is still a tried and true tactic for publicizing a company’s news and feature angles. 

However, there have been a couple of significant shifts in the way the world receives and consumes news and in the methods that are needed to support this. 

First was the broadening of the PR function (whether handled internally or through an outside agency) and its evolution as one of the important pieces of an overall marketing and communications strategy and plan.  No longer viewed through the lens of a pure “publicist” role, PR professionals within their respective organizations learned how to integrate their various editorial outreach efforts, including traditional media relations, into an overall marketing communications strategy.  We learned the valuable lesson of smart integration – that “one plus one may equal five” (instead of just two) if these complimentary strategies work hand-in-hand with each other according to a well-defined plan. 

The second seismic shift, of course, came with the introduction and rapid adoption of digital communications channels, which now require almost full-time attention to their constant evolution and potential new uses. 

So the new “secret sauce” in the world of public relations is in understanding and adopting, as needed, the correct mix of marketing and communications strategies and tactics in order to accurately and effectively impact your company’s growth and marketplace positioning goals.  The third-party credibility that accompanies a solid earned media campaign is still important and effective, especially when positioned within the context of a broader, multi-faceted communications effort.  Start with the targeted audiences you want to reach and then build an integrated outreach campaign that allows you to reach and positively influence your prospects and customers via multiple and integrated touch-points. 

Cathy Ackermann, founder and president of Ackermann Marketing and PR, may be reached at cackermann@thinkackermann.com.

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