Coming Out of the Shadows – Why it’s Essential for Marketers to Better Understand PR

By Amanda Proscia, Co-Founder, Lightspeed PR/M

In my more than thirty years of working in Public Relations, it’s become common to work with clients who, despite the fact that they are hiring me, really do not know what I do. What’s more surprising, however, is how often I work with marketing and advertising partners who also have an incomplete understanding of PR.

There are a few theories as to why this happens. A common one is that no one knows what they don’t know. We’ve all made the mistake of seeing only a portion of another industry and believing that’s all there is to it. Another possibility is that many people might simply be unwilling to admit that they don’t really get it, and ask for help.

My own perspective is that PR is widely misunderstood because, well, it’s our job. Unlike an advertisement that is intended to grab attention with its clever design and copywriting, public relations takes place behind the scenes. We’re not the stars of the show, but the ones off-stage directing the performance. That means if we’re doing our work well, most people will never know we were there.

And that’s a problem. Because when people don’t understand what something is, it’s hard to convince them of its value. Far too many business leaders tell me they don’t need public relations, until I share some insights into what it can actually do for them. They are always surprised by the breadth of what PR offers, and often regret that it took them so long to get started.

I’ve had similar experiences with advertising and marketing partners. While they tend to have a much better understanding of what PR is, it’s usually still a limited one. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of missed opportunities.

The good news is, it’s easy to fix. In fact, I’ve spoken with many friends and colleagues in marketing roles who agree that we can all work together to improve our partnerships. Typically, that’s when they ask me to help in demystifying my industry, and explain better just what it is we bring to the table.

Following are takeaways from those conversations, highlighting some initial steps to better integrate PR with marketing and advertising teams:

  • Messaging: I highlight this one first because it can have the biggest impact on results. While marketing and advertising teams usually take the lead on a campaign’s message, giving the PR/communications team a role in that discussion might deliver more success. Here’s why: marketing and advertising teams are looking for what’s going to work best across channels. The PR team has to take it a step further and ask “is this newsworthy?” If the answer is no, we’re then forced to re-work the messaging in an effort to find something that will earn media coverage. Sometimes it’s an easy fit. Other times, however, the message changes so much that it loses consistency with the rest of the campaign. A detrimental outcome that could have been avoided if the teams had worked together from the start.
  • Audience Targeting: Are your marketing and communications teams targeting the same people? I’ve seen too many instances when they weren’t. In each of those cases, the marketing team told me they didn’t realize they needed to share that information. Yes, a big part of our job is to get earned media in news and other third-party outlets. But our pitches and target lists are strategically focused on the right outlets – ones that have a high level of engagement with the campaign’s target audience. By sharing that part of a marketing strategy with the PR and communications team, you’ll ensure that media relations is supporting your goals.
  • Leveraging Results: A common question among PR people is how are our results being used? A common response from our marketing partners is that they didn’t realize the potential of what we’re delivering. There are a lot of ways that good PR can assist in reaching marketing goals. For example: if the PR team gets a great piece of news coverage, that news can be posted on the company website and social media channels, it can be shared during sales calls, displayed at industry conferences and even referenced in leader messages. And that’s just one example.
  • Strategic Planning: Marketing strategies often include many opportunities to tie-in PR and communications. Unfortunately, those could be missed if the teams aren’t planning together. Are there new product launches, new executive hires, employee initiatives or possibly even an upcoming issue included in the marketing plan? PR can guide, amplify and coordinate efforts on all of those. Better yet, when PR is given a seat at the strategy table, the marketing, advertising and communications teams typically develop something far stronger than it would have been without all of those disciplines sharing knowledge and ideas.

Public Relations might just be an untapped resource waiting to help out-perform goals. A better understanding of our work and how we can better integrate is a worthwhile effort for the new year.

About the Author:

Amanda Proscia, co-founder of Lightspeed Public Relations and Marketing, is the author of PR Confidential: Unlocking the Secrets to Creating a Powerful Public Image, available now. Lightspeed is a New York City-based agency focused on promoting innovation in areas like healthcare tech, financial tech and consumer electronics.