In 2013, Robert Wynne of Wynne Communications wrote, “public relations firms ‘don’t buy ads, don’t put up billboards, don’t come up with catchy phrases to make people buy more products they probably don’t need…as opposed to advertising agencies, promote companies or individuals via editorial content’ They do so by focusing on earned media, versus ad agencies that focus on paid media.” If this idea of PR feels like a lifetime ago, it’s because it might as well be. Today, PR is dynamic, fast-paced, and not defined by cold-calling reporters for coverage.
Ever-changing Media Landscape
Public relations is an ever-changing business, having to adapt to new technology, market trends, and consumer demands since its inception. We first saw a major shift with how the introduction of telephones and fax machines increased the speed and efficiency at which businesses communicated. Shortly after the rise of 24-hour news cycles, social media, and consumer-driven trends, PR firms had to deal with influencers, public shaming through social media, and the blurred line between advertising and PR.
In order to survive as a PR firm in today’s world, agencies have adapted and integrated, offering a more complete media + marketing package.
PR is Taking Note of Advertising Agencies
In the process of evolving to fit client needs, PR is taking on increasing responsibility and is completing the work traditionally assigned to advertising agencies. Three key trends are driving this change:
Creativity: Role differences between ad agencies and PR firms are no longer so rigid, with the latter becoming increasingly aware of the intersection between creativity and business. Integrated marketing strategies are the new norm. As Jay Pattisall, Forrester principal analyst, says, “Agencies need to be known for and good at a handful of things in order to sustain their revenue.”
Consumers are Getting Smarter: Audiences know when they’re being advertised to, and are getting better at avoiding – or outright blocking – brands’ efforts. Trendy, visual content is reigning king with audiences, but can only capture them for so long. PR’s use of data and ability to quickly pivot strategies allows these agencies to thrive in the long term and stay in step with consumer’s interests.
PR can handle the Pace: Balancing crisis comms, press releases, and client requests are just the tip of the iceberg for things that make PR pros experts on multitasking under pressure. With constant platform updates and rapidly changing industry trends, businesses need teams that excel even when the clock is working against them. Walking the line between content creation and promotion allows PR agencies to fast track new campaigns more than traditional methods.
The Pros and Cons of In-House PR
There are numerous pros and cons of trying to maintain PR programs in house, some based in logistics, others in preference. In deciding which is right for you, all businesses need to assess their individual needs and ability to have readily available resources when looking to make a commitment.
For those that need undivided attention from an expert on all things ‘your business’, an in-house PR pro makes the most sense, as they are there to work for and learn about one client. Maybe your business’ vision or message gets lost over conference calls, emails, and video chats. Having a PR team always able to meet in person mitigates the stress and frustration disconnected communication can cause.
On the other hand, working with an agency offers access to a wider set of skills. It would be very challenging to find one person you could bring in house who has mastered everything from writing whitepapers, to running PPC campaigns, and managing a robust social media calendar in between. Choosing a firm over in-house gives you access to a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experience that is near impossible to find in a single person.
One of the biggest losses with in-house operations: you don’t get the best of both worlds. Agencies may have consultants they work with as well. This can help your business more quickly adapt to changes in the industry and incorporate more traditional advertising strategies into your PR program.
If you’re looking for an extension of your in-house marketing teams, don’t be deterred by the label of “PR.” Many of these agencies offer a wealth of services that can support your full sales funnel.