Why we should strip away labels and focus on outcomes

As PR, marketing and publicity overlap to the point of being indistinguishable, the solution lies not in definitions but in benchmarking results, the author asserts.

The terms public relations, marketing and publicity are limiting and, these days, nebulous.

What if we removed the labels that define what we do and instead focused on the outcomes?

  • Public relations involves strategically building and maintaining a strong, mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and its stakeholders.
  • Marketing is compelling a defined audience to take a specific, commercially valuable action—usually a sale.
  • Publicity is generating awareness for something at scale.

Does a customer need to build, strengthen or maintain key relationships? Do they need a strategy to compel actionable relationships that yield commercial value? Or do they need help communicating at scale to an audience with which they have an established relationship?

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A MuckRack report suggests that media coverage, reach, social media and website “impact” are today’s primary PR metrics. One persistent PR challenge is demonstrating the value of media coverage in commercial terms.

There is a solution. If we get rid of labels, we can measure the impact of everything we do, including:

  • Whether PR tactics strengthen a relationship, and by how much
  • Whether, and to what degree, a person or group takes the action directed through marketing messages
  • Whether communicating at scale with a defined audience yields a desired outcome, and to what degree the messaging matters

For PR, there is an unintended benefit. Building strong, mutually beneficial relationships is a foundation of any effective marketing strategy. To elicit a commercially valuable action, you need a relationship strong enough to prompt that desired action.

If we can demonstrate value, we can make a case for more money and greater involvement in strategy development, while reinforcing PR’s role as a growth tool.

Lyndon Johnson is the founder of Think Different[ly] and general manager of Comms.bar.

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