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Picks of the Week: PR Industry Edition

As Paul mentioned in his earlier post, yesterday was a special day for PR 20/20, as he was recognized with a Rising Star award at the Innovation in Business conference.

PR 20/20 was founded because Paul saw a need for change in the PR industry. And, as he shared, “for nearly five years we have worked tirelessly to build an agency with an uncompromising vision for change, and a commitment to disruptive innovation… and constantly challenged the accepted norms within our industry.”

It seems fitting, then, that in today’s edition of PR 20/20 Picks of the Week, we take a look at industry conversations about those norms, share thoughts from some industry bloggers on the state of PR today and how the Internet is reshaping the way we do business, and what skills professionals need to stay relevant and successful moving forward.

The State of the PR Industry

The week started with an article by Todd Defren, written after his popular public relations blog was removed from the syllabus of a PR course at Arizona State, because it “straddles the line between PR and marketing, and… often conflates the two.”

In his blog post, The Creative Destruction of Public Relations, Todd argued that not only has PR been historically conflated with another discipline — media relations — but also that, the distinct discipline of Public Relations no longer exists.”

Due to the connectivity of the web, people are increasingly having cross-channel experiences with brands. Because of this, none of the traditionally separate business-communication industries can continue to stand alone in today’s business world. Says Todd, “PR is no longer JUST Media Relations. Advertising is no longer JUST advertising. Social Media Marketing is no longer JUST about Social Media. Email and Direct Marketing don’t exist in a silo anymore, either.”

And Todd isn’t the only one who thinks this way. He also shared the rationale behind Aaron Kwittken’s recent decision to sell his PR agency, Kwitten & Co., to MDC Partners: “Traditional PR agencies have five to ten years left in the cycle before they get phased out. Everything is blurring together and traditional PR agencies need to think how they are going to add to their social and digital abilities and how to expand into other areas.”

It isn’t just PR

In The Top 3 Reasons Traditional Marketing Will Fail, Matt Batt takes a look at common marketing practices, and argues that social web has made controlling a brand’s message an impossible job. Specifically, he thinks traditional marketing falls short in that it:

  • Fails to align with business goals, such as driving leads, sales and customer loyalty
  • Attempts to talk at audiences, rather than with them
  • Assumes control of the brand and its message, when in fact it is the consumers who hold that power today

So, how can PR and marketing professionals adapt their skills for the new business world?

Modern Content Marketing

One approach, which is clearly gaining momentum, is to become your own publisher. However, according to Ford Kanzler, though content marketing is possibly the industry’s biggest buzzword, it really isn’t anything new. In fact, Content Marketing Has Been a Successful PR Strategy for Decades.

Ford compares traditional PR tactics — such as developing seminars, contributing articles to magazines and newspapers, writing white papers, finding speaking opportunities, and securing video interviews and book deals — with their modern counterparts. (Respectively, webinars, blog posts, online white papers, webcasts/podcasts and ebooks.)

So then, the key is to adapt content marketing to the 21st century, for audiences who are actively seeking information about your industry, and related products and services online. By providing relevant, optimized and buyer persona-focused content, and  “understanding that share-of-voice precedes share-of-mind, which precedes share-of-market,” businesses can effectively reach consumers at point of need, develop relationships with them that generate leads, turn them into sales over time and nurture those relationships for years to come.

If you need help figuring out just how to develop content in the digital age, check out Amy Mae Elliott’s Mashable article, 5 Tips for Aspiring Digital Copywriters.

In addition to adapting writing style for the web, Steve Farnsworth offers some tips in answer to the question, To Stay Relevant, How Do Communications Professionals Need To Evolve?

Community Communication

Steve’s belief is that for a PR professional to thrive, one must “shift your view of yourself from a company communicator to that of a communities facilitator.” In short, we can’t control the message anymore (sound familiar?) and instead need to learn how to be a part of the conversation, and encourage a positive view of our — or our client’s — company through action, rather than empty spin.

In addition to monitoring social media conversations, listening to your target audiences and adapting what you offer to better serve them, this also involves helping your colleagues/clients develop the communications skills they need to proactively connect with customers, prospects and others online.

And lastly, with methods of communication changing as rapidly as they are, our industry is changing just as fast. Meaning, we can’t get away with sitting on our laurels, and relying on what we learned in school, on-the-job training, or even in years of professional experience. In short, we can’t ever stop learning, and forcing ourselves to improve.

Lastly, Elizabeth Sosnow offers her thoughts on A Skill That Many in PR are Missing… And Better Find Quick. Warning: it’s based in a class that many of us avoided at all costs (or in my case: had to take, and subsequently had to beg for a decent grade).

According to Elizabeth, “there is a ‘new math’ on the horizon for every one of us in the PR profession…one that I suspect most of us have not embraced. In the midst of all the hype around social media, there is surprisingly little talk around a critical emerging skill: mastery of website analytics.”

The good news, however, is that this is a different kind of math. It’s very tangible, and highly applicable to the things we should be doing, monitoring and reporting on to our clients, colleagues or superiors.

Analytical Skills

Says Elizabeth “simply put, we need to be able to understand the math of online behavior. Why is it so important? Because our job as counselors is changing rapidly… And if you don’t have the ability to add up the clicks and deduce what it means, you are in trouble.”

If you need a little help with your analytical skills, Elizabeth’s post offers a few tips to begin developing your abilities in this area.

The moral of the story this week? Go get your learn on.

How do you stay relevant in today's dynamic busines world?

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