During a town-hall styled meeting at Edelman’s London office yesterday, one of my colleagues asked the question…. as PR continues to expand, encompassing digital, research, media planning and content creation, should we consider rebranding ourselves as communications firms?
I believe this is the wrong way to go for the following reasons:
- When you have a clearly defined profession–underpinned by core values and ethics –it is easier to update our brand than introduce a new one.
- The brand of PR is not damaged as much as it is underrated. The general public puts PR into the box of master manipulators (“spinners”) or publicists. This we can change.
- The world is moving in our direction. The stakeholder society—where corporations/organizations act in the long-term interests of all stakeholders as well as shareholders and customers– is perfectly constituted to our profession. We engage all stakeholders in continuous conversations through multiple channels while reiterating clients’ commitment to performance with purpose.
- We bring a deep understanding of the social aspect of media. It is conversation–direct genuine interaction– with corporations that people want, not one-way selling.
- We are strategic advisors. An effective PR program is entirely premised on corporations/organizations actions, doing the right thing, and then telling the story well. We are at the c-suite table informing corporate and brand strategy to help make decisions.
- Part of our value-add is the network of influencers we maintain. We bring input from NGOs, community leaders, media, academic experts, as well as employees, customers etc. to inform clients.
- We build credible brands and reputations because media is the world’s most important amplifier of quality information. We’re not journalists. But, as we support ‘owned’ channels, helping clients think and act like media companies, PR’s responsibility is to ensure we adhere to the journalist-quality standards for posting and distributing information.
The advertising, digital, research, media, and public relations disciplines are all converging, as the walls between the four parts of the ‘Media Cloverleaf’ (Mainstream, Tra-digital, Social, Owned) come down. We will do better by reiterating PR’s points of difference rather than trying to redefine our profession. The advertising folks bring paid media and planning, the digital players have elegant technical solutions, the research firms have insight, the media buyers have purchasing clout, and PR brings content and stakeholder engagement. We are adding these capabilities to our toolbox to provide comprehensive solutions for our clients—expanding PR to public engagement–while continuing to use our public relations lens as the basis of competitive advantage.
As always, I appreciate your comments.