How and why PR is leading the marketing charge

Once an afterthought in that realm, public relations has become a dominant force. Three industry experts weigh in on the reasons for and ramifications of this metamorphosis.

Public relations has long played a part in the marketing jumble, but experts say the industry is steadily commanding a leading role.

As consumers have become increasingly curious, and as clients have developed more of an interest in multichannel marketing, PR has asserted its dominance.

In the eyes of Gini Dietrich, CEO of integrated marketing and communications firm Arment Dietrich, PR earned its star status long before 2016.

“PR has not been an add-on,” she says. “If we’ve not been at center stage for the past six or seven years, we certainly have been a star performer.”

Here’s how Dietrich sees PR’s influence at work:

“When we use the ‘paid, earned, shared and owned media’ model to integrate our communications efforts, we build authority, thought leadership, Google rankings, awareness and, most importantly, sales that we can track directly back to our efforts. At the center of all of that is where PR leads—and has always led. It’s in building trust, in building relationships and in building authenticity. Those three things are why people buy.”

Boston-based marketing and communication consultant Susan Harrison says PR ought to be at the helm of an organization’s integrated marketing strategy. She says that in order to create a “great brand with a positive image,” organizations must employ a robust PR staff.

Harrison suggests that to succeed in 2016, an organization should train all of its communicators in PR so they embody the organization’s philosophies when interacting with consumers.

“Marketing, advertising and customer service [staff] need PR training to be able to respond to any situation,” Harrison says. “If you’re in PR, stop trying to take on the world alone. You should have as many hands on deck as possible. To succeed, you need to become more upfront and willing to share.” RELATED: Innovate or disappear. Sharpen your PR prowess with pros from CNN Digital, The New York Times and more.

Here’s a list of what Harrison says all PR pros should note about their in-demand role:

· Your online and offline influence will be greater than ever before.

· If a situation requires all hands on deck, educate all of your staff, not just a few key members.

· If you don’t respond, you will fail—and fail miserably. Be ready to issue a response to anything, whether it’s in your wheelhouse or not.

· Digital communication is your friend. Use all platforms to get your brand’s message out, and create binding ties for your clients, potential customers and community.

Many agencies are focusing their marketing efforts on a digital audience, something author Carrie Morgan says adds to PR’s value.

“Digital tactics are maturing,” Morgan says. “As we pass from understanding the basics and learn to apply more sophisticated strategies and metrics to our online efforts, PR’s voice will progressively become louder.”

A key aspect, she says, is that PR monitors and tracks brand visibility.

“No one can deny the importance of online visibility or the deeply involved role PR has in relation to it,” she says. “It’s no longer an option; [brands] must be visible wherever their audience is. Content marketing and social media have incredible impact on brand visibility and it’s no longer possible to rise above the noise online without PR playing a significant role.”

Morgan says executives are taking note and that PR pros should be ready to see their roles expand.

“We own organic growth if it involves earned media or owned media,” she says. “Executive teams increasingly understand the value and potential of the role we play, and just how essential PR is to the bottom line.”

How do you see PR taking on more responsibility in your organization’s marketing efforts?

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