In my view, there never has been a hard line between PR and advertising. It’s more like a continuum with true paid media (the traditional :30 TV spot still resonates for many audiences) on one end of the spectrum and true earned media (free ink – print and digital) on the other end. Everything else in the world of owned media from advertorials, sales and promotional materials, special events to websites and digital assets falls in between.
On the continuum, the types of communication vehicles have exploded. As we enter 2016, it is barely possible to keep up with the burgeoning variety of ways to share content. Where once it was fairly simple to understand and advocate for all different types of communication channels, it now is a challenge simply to understand what the channels are … let alone know when the right time is to employ them (native advertising anyone?). But through all of this, one thing has remained constant – and that is the ability to understand the nuances and value of Starting Conversations with your audiences.
The ability to identify audiences and start conversations that are relevant, reality based and soundly rooted in an overarching strategy remains the paramount objective of the communication business.
When we started our firm back in 1993, my business partners and I were intrigued by a philosophy of PR that was being hyped at the time known as Marketing Public Relations. It was the brainchild of PR heavyweight Philip Kotler. Simply put, it advocated for the development of PR-based initiatives that support the marketing function. Marketing Public Relations also, very importantly, had a strong sense of being tactically agnostic. Kotler stressed that the results are more important than choosing any single approach. For those of us who believe in the continuum of marketing, that approach still makes a lot of sense. Any tactic that connects with your audience for Starting Conversations is valued and embraced in the truest Marketing Public Relations philosophy.
My partners and I came from strong PR backgrounds (and preference for PR) but we also spent years on the “ad side” of agency life. Marketing Public Relations allowed our newly formed firm to merge our two areas of expertise. Providing a seamless blend of solutions to clients regardless of where they fell on the Advertising vs. PR continuum.
Our approach continues to focus on the bigger picture of Starting Conversations through a variety of Marketing Public Relations venues. We were, and are, tactically agnostic. Our focus is on creating a buzz and looking for unique ways to enhance the reputation of our clients. Paid or earned. Native or local. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or the local newspaper. Pinterest or the WSJ. The true art and science of effective communication is knowing where and how to start conversations.
In today’s world, success is the result of starting with the right audiences, communicating the right messages, and dare I say it … knowing when to use the hippest vehicles of the era to drive successful campaigns and when to remember the effectiveness of the basic Sears-variety catalog.
It all can work. It all does work. The art is knowing when to use what. And to have a team that understands the vast opportunities for speaking to different audiences in the manner that resonates most effectively with them.
Today, our challenges are three-fold. Identify the right strategy. Start the right conversation. And have a brain trust at the office that knows the up-to-the-minute nuances of all the channels for content distribution.
This isn’t the 90s or the 2000s. Heck, it’s more like 2020. We need the ability to see both the past and the future. Behind us and in front of us in order to be effective communicators. How are you Starting Conversations with your audiences this year?