What compels me to make this outlandish claim, I hear you say? Well, it seems we are living in an age where opinion trumps fact, so please indulge me.
Often found towards the bottom of the communications food chain, public relations (and the talented people that work within it) has had to fight for a seat at the table. Should we still be saying thank you, or asking for the best seat in the house?
Give the people what they want!
Is there any other discipline that works so closely with public sentiment? Admittedly, even PR is not immune from the lack of diversity in comms today, but I would say as a discipline we are a whole lot more tuned than in most. PR people are told their entire careers to look for “the hook’. What is that compelling human insight or angle that will make this story interesting to people? Creatively, this is our jumping off point. And we know that our work will only be deemed successful if we get this right. Ad people don’t need to worry about this. And media people certainly don’t.
As brands thankfully move more and more away from broadcasting their messages at people to active engagement with them, the role of PR has never been more important.
Adapt or die.
Another thing we PR people do well is adapt. Our strategies are constantly evolving even when a campaign is halfway out the door - shifting media landscapes, changing public sentiment, a crisis…. All these things can influence our ability to execute what we said we would. And so we adapt. We change tack. We fine-tune our angle.
Similarly, brands that have responded quickly and reactively to the volatility of 2020 have fared well. Imagine how much money has been lost in pulled ad campaigns and unused inventory? PR can bounce back a little quicker. What this year has taught us if nothing else is the need for agility and adaptability.
Reputation is king.
When our politicians lie through their teeth, our idols fall from grace and our police officers start killing civilians, who can you trust? Nike? Gillette? Dove? Is trust the new barometer of brand health? Many think brands need a purpose to elicit trust.
I’m not sure. It feels like a stretch. What I would like to see from brands though more immediately is a greater focus on their corporate reputation. We’ve seen what happens when a brand’s actions don’t match up to its words - the damage this does is irrevocable. Maybe the future is cross-discipline teams comprising of R&D, marketing, distribution, HR - and corporate comms. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Words by Head of Earned, Laura Barette