Does the need for PR still exist?

The answer depends on whether you’re thinking the P in PR is for press or for public relations. Certainly, the game has changed since the days when column inches were the measure of success. 

Back in those days, press relations was a specialism. And it was the one that marketing managers seemed to value most highly; with good reason.
Editorial was king of the marketing mix. Sometimes it was the only way of putting messages in front of target audiences.  And to announce a product was impossible without the blessing from journalists. So what’s changed?
The routes to audiences, whether they are customers, prospects, investors or recruits have proliferated over the last ten years.  Newspapers now stand quivering in a crowded market that is full of magazines, internet sites and social networks.  So, far from being the only route to your target’s ear, or eye, the media is now just one of many communications options open to you.
While the press might not carry the weight it once did, the need to communicate with the public in general is as important as ever.  The increased number of routes, however, has made your job more complicated.

Build a programme

No longer can you put all your eggs in the media basket and know that you’ve done enough. You now need to build a programme that enables you to talk to your target customers as well as enabling you to continue to create a dialogue with other groups, such as your employees, recruits, investors, your local community and your competitors. And while once you could do that through a newspaper or magazine, you now need to use every channel open to you.
Social networks along with the increasing ability to self-publish in print, online and in video, enables you to devise direct routes to each audience. You can build traffic to your own websites by announcing your news via twitter. You have more power now than ever before to show more customers that they can benefit from a relationship with you. And once that relationship is in place, there’s a better chance that readers become customers, and then become loyal and evangelistic members of your ‘club’.
While the media’s role in this might be reduced it still offers an excellent route to large audience groups in a way that’s far more credible than advertising.  So keep working with the press and make it work for you.

Make the media work

It’s important be sure you’re clear what you have to offer the press. Consider what sort of publications will help to promote you – think of their readers.

A journalist will only use your story if it’s of interest to their readers, so give them something they will use.  And that story that you’re giving to the journalist, make sure it’s matched well to your commercial needs. Make sure it’s promoting you in a way that fits with your plans.

When you get coverage exploit it:

  • Tell your customers that you’ve been written about
  • Link to that coverage from your website
  • Consider getting some reprints
  • Build your own news about the coverage into your email newsletters
  • Tweet about it and link to it
  • Make sure your employees know that you’ve got the coverage and what it’s for

The plan

None of this is going to work if you don’t have a plan.
Ideally that should start with a business plan. Within that will be a marketing plan. That will show you the sectors you need to target and will enable you to create a marcoms plan. With the marcoms plan is a PR plan.  Have you got your plans in place?

This piece started with a question? The answer must be yes, it definitely exists and there's a need to be good at it. It would be good, though, to think broadly. Think about your entire public and the media being just one element of it.