Every new year comes with new opportunities and new challenges.
We asked some of our colleagues in the PR industry: "What are the biggest obstacles PR professionals face in the coming year?" Here are some of their responses.
"With so much swirl in D.C., it may take a couple of months for other industries like technlogy or travel to get back to the share-of-voice that they're accustomed to, or they'll have to fight harder and get creative to maintain or grow it. It may be a good time to experiment with different, more targeted approaches like exclusive or feature placements that don't rely on the echo-chamber effect that could be dampened in the coming year for all but the most prominent players."
"For one, probably the same that it's been for a while: demonstrating the real value of PR.
"Contributed content written by your clients to position them as experts in their industry, is a hot trend and will continue to be a very important part of your PR strategy in 2017. With that being said, media outlets are constantly getting bombarded with guest thought leadership pieces from publicists, which means that you need to make sure you're submitting high quality, stellar content on fresh topics. Also, the Editorial Directors for these media outlets that take contributed content, are constantly changing so it's going to be a little difficult keeping up with who you should be pitching."
But not everything in 2017 is negative for PR pros...
"I've been in this industry for over 25 years and I believe PR professionals are in a sweet spot right now. Most businesses realize they need PR/Marketing support and are taking PR more seriously. It's not the first thing to be eliminated when budgets get tight anymore."
Today's post comes from ROAM Communications network partner, Rory J. O'Connor, Chief Storyteller at San Francisco-based Morcopy Communications. He is an award-winning former journalist and long-time senior PR executive, who provides executive communications consulting and writing services to corporate clients.
There's hardly a corporate communications program that doesn't include a "thought leadership" component, whether the goal is to increase the visibility of a key executive, position a brand to stand apart from its competitors, or influence the direction of an industry or public issue.
Unfortunately, few of those programs succeed as well in practice as they do on paper. What often gets in the way of success is fear of risk.
Being a true thought leader is inherently risky. It requires an individual or a brand to be bold, to take a stand on something important, or point with confidence to a vision of the future. But taking a stand means choosing sides, and predicting the future means you might be wrong. The stronger the stand, the more risk there is of opposition; the bolder the vision, the greater the risk it won't come to pass.
The temptation is to back away from that risk -- but that also saps a thought leadership campaign of vitality and effectiveness. You wind up with speeches that don't excite audiences, op-eds that don't entice editors, and blog posts that don't ignite conversations.
Don't run away from those risks: Embrace them instead, and then build your campaign around these five key principles:
Finally, even if you follow these principles, a thought leadership campaign rarely succeeds overnight. It takes time to earn a following and respect with a target audience. One of the most successful thought leadership campaigns of my career, which a colleague and I developed for a major global technology brand, developed quite gradually over 18 months. We were fortunate to have a CEO who both embraced the risk and was willing to invest the right level of time and resources. Setting expectations at the outset will help ensure the campaign has the opportunity to deliver its full value.
From the early days of PR, agencies, independents and clients alike have been searching for ways to demonstrate the true impact of their actions. This request has become even more in demand as companies are relying more heavily on metrics to drive decisions across the business. This is logical and responsible.
But what if metrics for a particular department or activity are hard to come by?
There have been a variety of approaches to creating PR-related metrics: impressions, mentions, features, tone, share of voice, web traffic, conversions, etc. Each of these metrics have their pros and cons. For example:
Before a new engagement with an agency or freelancer or, at the end of the year, as you begin planning for the next year’s PR program, clearly discuss with the PR team and your company’s leadership which metrics are important to your company and why. This can help keep everyone on the same page as well as guide discussions around what campaigns make sense to execute upon and which won’t help the team achieve its goals.
Should this be a press release or a blog post?
This is a question that executives and communications teams alike ask on a regular if not daily basis. And it can be a highly debated topic depending on a variety of factors.
Historically, press releases were critical to getting any company news out to the public. You issued a standard press release for earnings, mergers & acquisitions, product announcements, customer wins, etc. It went across "the wire" into the hands of key reporters.
But then the blog post was created.
Google was the first major company to truly embrace the blog post. The company deliberately chose to forego press releases (with the exception of where it is required like earnings and mergers & acquisitions) and put all of their effort into blogging. And it has been an extremely successful and cost-effective decision.
There are pros and cons to both methods, and in fact, there are a variety of other newer formats -- like LinkedIn and Medium -- to consider as well. Many companies choose to use a mixture of these platforms and that's probably the right approach. Not all company news requires a press release but some news needs more reach than what your blog may be getting at this point.
Whatever approach your team chooses to take, the key is to be consistent.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.