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Lead and Succeed or be Led and Left Dead

The world is changing.  The way people and organisations communicate is changing.  Change presents opportunities, but it also presents threats.  The PR industry is at a crossroads: we can mature, expand and grasp the new world, or we can retreat to our bunker and quietly let other marketing disciplines take the high ground.

We recently surveyed 165 PR decision makers revealing a decisive shift in the thoughts and expectations of the influencers and purchasers of PR services.  Only four per cent sees achieving media coverage as the primary purpose of PR; 60 per cent believes the emergence of new ways of creating, publishing and sharing content is decreasing the influence of traditional media; and 98 per cent believes that PR can and should demonstrate its ability to influence specific business outcomes.

I believe, and our survey validates, that public relations has become too aligned with press relations. 

Media coverage is not the end result, it is a tactical output.  Understanding, supporting and being accountable for specific outcomes is what PR can and should achieve for organisations.

So, here is the uncomfortable truth: PR needs to change to survive.  First, it needs to become strategic, by demonstrating that it understands and can achieve specific organisational objectives.  It needs to recognise that in our evolving world a much broader set of communication tools, techniques, channels and content is needed to engage and influence multiple audiences – not just media relations.  And it needs set performance targets and be accountable for inputs, outputs and organisational outcomes. 

The good news is that the potential for PR to be all these things has never been greater. Our core skills are situated in content creation, audience definition and the creation and delivery of key messages that achieve changes in perceptions and behaviours – the main building blocks in a marketing communications strategy.

The emergence of new ways of creating, publishing and sharing content also mean we have a much broader toolkit at our disposal, which includes tools and channels that enable us to be more measurable and accountable for achieving specific organisational objectives.

At Whiteoaks we’ve recently launched 360 PR, which delivers all these factors and provides a complete perspective of what PR can and should achieve.  We believe that PR starts from a position of strength and now is the time for PR as a discipline to be brave, innovative and assume a position of leadership in the new world order of marketing.