2018 may be a turning point for public relations. 2018 becomes the year that PR must expand its turf, take on wider responsibilities in the new digital landscape, and document its successes. The alternative? Risk being assimilated by other communications functions.
PR and other communications professions are changing rapidly. Communications experts agree that the walls between PR, social media marketing, advertising and digital marketing are crumbling and their roles are merging. Advertising and marketing agencies are offering services that PR agencies once considered their exclusive real estate, and vice versa. More companies are combining roles of communications executives, such as PR and content marketing.
How PR will fare remains to be seen. PR may be subsumed by other departments. Only 8 percent of PR professionals believe that PR will remain a distinct and separate function, according to a survey from the USC Center for Public Relations. However, by pivoting to assume new responsibilities, it may take on a leading role.
Taking on More Responsibilities
Those additional responsibilities may include digital advertising and social media marketing. PR pros can apply their content-creation and relationship-building skills to social media.
“You can’t be in business today without a social media presence. PR provides the strategy and content to explode your social media presence,” says Wendy Marx, president of PR agency Marx Communications.
As the internet has become saturated with content, competition for attention becomes more intense. In addition, social media networks have reduced the organic reach of companies. Paid and social media promotion of content created by PR becomes a viable strategy. Online marketing experts call social media advertising one of the most effective marketing strategies to promote content. The strategy offers precise targeting capabilities and remains relatively affordable compared to traditional advertising.
Look at the Big Picture
Cooperation, if not integration, between formerly disparate teams will improve marketing, PR and advertising campaigns. The days of claiming a task “is not my job” will come to an end, experts predict.
“PR tends to live in its own little silo. I compare it to investing in a new car and only using the trunk; there’s so much more value if you look at how all the parts fit together in the big picture,” writes Forbes contributor John Hall, co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co.
As departmental silos crumble, PR can win influence within the organization and earn budget increases by gaining and keeping the respect of key stakeholders. That includes leaders of other departments as well as C-suite executives.
Those executives and colleagues in other areas may not understand PR and may expect unrealistic accomplishments. Education can help. “PR needs to promote internally what it does in the industry and how it builds and maintains the company’s reputation,” advises Seth Arenstein, editor at PR News. “It also can be useful to educate staff of what is involved in meeting a PR request and mounting a campaign.”
Taking on additional responsibilities for communications strategy, SEO, social media, content marketing, and digital promotion may be the best way PR can secure a leadership position in the communications hierarchy.
Bottom Line: Public relations will likely see substantial change in 2018 as PR integrates with marketing and other communications functions. Whether PR pros become corporate leaders or subsets or other departments depends on how well they communicate with other business departments and expand into new responsibilities.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.