Thursday, March 7, 2013

Accountability represents the greatest change in PR strategies over the past 25 years

Posted by Greg Matusky
Confession time: It was all once based on the hope theory, this art of public relations. Public relations pros would craft a message we hoped would resonate with influencers -- such as media. We then hoped they would find value in the message and distribute it to their audiences.

Once out there, we hoped the intended audience would appreciate it, and shape behavior, opinion, or demand accordingly. And all this was done with the hope that some open-ended retainer would finance the entire public relations strategy. But today, hope is for dopes.

GAME PLAN: Accountability is increasingly
important to successful PR strategies
That's because accountability is the calling card today in developing contemporary, scientific public relations strategies that impact real business objectives for clients. It's been a sea change, and a welcomed one, considering how far our industry has come and the tools now available in transforming public relations into a legitimate means of building real bottom line value.

With these changes comes an onslaught of new tactical realities all aimed at injecting greater transparency and accountability into the investments clients' make in public relations, through:

1. The demise of retainers and rise of the scope of work. The open retainer of old was based on a failed notion that public relations was more closely aligned to sales than marketing, and PR firms needed to pursue the media, regardless of where the effort took them. Open checkbook retainers funded that pursuit. A 2013 reality check shows that today's public relations strategies are based firmly on tasks that help clients build and control their own channels, all of which can be easily identified, priced, and delivered through a transparent scope of work that leads to an agreed upon outcome.

2. The power of result platforms. Here's a dirty little secret. The reason public relations was once unaccountable was there were few easy ways to quantify results. Today? Not so much. Result platforms are the monitoring mechanisms that are now baked into a successful public relations strategy from the beginning. Designed right, these platforms can monitor and measure any range of legitimate business objectives, from improved search engine optimization, increased lead generation, enhanced pipeline development, and greater webinar attendance, to broader awareness and market influence.

3. It's about content marketing, not content (satisfied) marketing. In many ways, the cockroaches have again inherited public relations. For years, those with the talent to develop compelling content were the masters of the public relations universe, able to convince and persuade simply through the power of words. Well, the business got sloppy somewhere during the tech bubble of the late 1990s, when print media exploded. (Remember when placing a feature story was as easy as calling an editor at the Industry Standard who needed to fill hundreds of pages of copy a month?) Well it's back to the future, now that content marketing has replaced even the feature/benefit, case study, testimonial marketing of the 2000s. In a highly commoditized world, where everyone just about argues the same benefits (improved ROI, quicker time to market, blah, blah, blah) prospects want reliable information and education, above all else. How content drives that process and establishes thought leadership is the prime question in public relations today and one we're uniquely positioned to answer as communicators, educators, influencers, and persuaders.

4. The new influencers. Sure, it's still The New York Times or the Today show. Media continue to play the leading role in setting agendas. But it's also about the front page of Google and how we help clients get there in search strings most used by their target audience. That quest has opened up a whole new avenue of public relations strategy, one of immense importance in the new paradigm of see and be seen.

Our world today is one based on real business objectives rather than the failed hope strategies of the past. The industry's ability to demonstrate results, real results, perhaps for the first time in its history is forever transforming our science and craft. It's refreshing to look clients in the eye and share worldly results rather than hopeful intentions.
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