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Whitepaper newrole

  1. 1. Vocus White Paper The Expanding Role of the PR Professional
  2. 2. Vocus White Paper 1 The Expanding Role of the PR Professional The Expanding Role of the PR Professional Defining Public Relations: Public relations helps our complex, pluralistic society to reach decisions and function more effectively by contributing to mutual understanding among groups and institutions. It serves to bring private and public policies into harmony. Public relations serves a wide variety of institutions in society such as businesses, trade unions, government agencies, voluntary associations, foundations, hospitals, schools, colleges and religious institutions. To achieve their goals, these institutions must develop effective relationships with many different audiences or publics such as employees, members, customers, local communities, shareholders, and other institutions, and with society at large. The managements of institutions need to understand the attitudes and values of their publics in order to achieve institutional goals. The goals themselves are shaped by the external environment. The public relations practitioner acts as a counselor to management and as a mediator, helping to translate private aims into reasonable, publicly acceptable policy and action. -Official Statement of PRSA Tasked with building and maintaining brand reputation, complementing marketing initiatives and even driving sales, public relations now extends far beyond its traditional role. While the foundation of the profession is still rooted in building relationships with the media, it now lends itself to a wide variety of other aspects in today’s business environment. As companies recognize the potential of PR in key areas of their growth strategy, more and more public relations professionals today find themselves reporting to the C-suite, taking part in strategic planning for the organization and supporting its growth. How has the role of public relations changed over the past few years and where is it headed? How can you prepare for and take advantage of new opportunities? The public relations function has expanded to help align and lead other company initiatives and will continue to grow, moving forward. This whitepaper will analyze the new role of the public relations professional and offer tips and techniques to professionals that they can apply to successfully support the company’s growth. Proponents of Change “The public has its own standards and demands and habits. You may modify them but you dare not run counter to them. … The public is not an amorphous mass which can be molded at will, or dictated to.” - Edward Bernays, Propaganda. In recent years, the role of public relations has begun to make a significant shift away from its intense focus on the media, thanks in large part to the Internet and the rise of the new media. Once dedicated solely to the media, in today’s world public relations is part of a more integrated company strategy. The Internet has significantly changed the structure of communications. Comprising an audience of an estimated 178 million people or nearly four out of five US adults (2007, Harris Interactive Study) and consisting of consumers, media, investors and more, the Internet has greatly enhanced the exchange of information. With mass audiences now consuming information previously unavailable on such a wide-scale level, it has increased the need for stronger and more defined company messages.
  3. 3. Vocus White Paper 2 The Expanding Role of the PR Professional Not only are more audiences going online to research, new media has provided an outlet for immediate sharing of that information. It is now possible for everyone from seasoned journalists to the average Internet user to publish opinions and content on a company. With all these messages converging on the Internet and thus becoming public facing, it falls to public relations professionals to monitor and manage these messages. Another major shift in the industry has been brought on by public relations own successes. As public relations has continued to provide measureable results, and in many cases a greater ROI than other company functions, the profession has grown in estimation among companies. In a study to determine the ROI of public relations, Procter & Gamble employed statistical modeling across the marketing mix of six brands over a three year period. Here’s what Procter & Gamble discovered: • Three of the six brands it studied showed public relations with the highest ROI of any marketing tactic • PR delivers significant ROI overall, much greater than advertising, and provides a halo effect over other marketing tactics • PR showed an overall 275% ROI • PR delivers high ROI with relatively low spend in comparison to other marketing vehicles Whereas a few years ago, not all companies had a dedicated individual to handle the PR function, today it is nearly a requirement. The pace of communications, the 24/7 media and the increased communication flow, has made public relations a necessity for every organizations, regardless of size. At the same time, the introduction of software designed specifically for public relations has enabled companies to streamline the processes and efficiently manage their public relations. With the growing adoption of public relations software to not only automate and manage communication processes but see measurable results from their efforts, building and maintaining public relations campaigns is also within grasp for every organization. With a foundation rooted in relationship building, PR is a natural fit to manage the company reputation and distributed messages that reflect company goals. As such, professionals need to move from media relationships to building relationships with all the audiences consuming company information. Identifying the Changes • Gaining access to the top is not the issue it was just a few years ago. Today, the issue is what one does with that access. • PR was more likely to be included in organizational strategic planning and senior level meetings of all types. • CEOs believed that PR contributed to financial success and market share, and that reputation contributed to the overall success of the organization. (2007 Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices, Annenberg School for Communications) The changes to communications mean significant changes to the profession. As professional’s goals and functions have changed, it is easy to see the significant changes that are taking place. • Professional Development - Public relations has started to receive academic recognition. Whereas, ten years ago, most PR professionals received educational training in disciplines not directly related to the field, today many universities and colleges are offering specific PR programs. With courses designed to reflect the function of today’s PR professionals, public relations has grown into a legitimized career track. Additionally, professionals out in the field now have access to accreditation programs to help familiarize them with new techniques and to validate their knowledge of the profession. • Strategy vs. Tactics - A noticeable shift among PR professionals has been in reporting structure. As the function has moved past executing tactics to coordinating strategies, PR professionals are finding themselves reporting to the C-suite. In the past, traditional methods could be used and a standard set of tactics applied for success. Today, that is no longer the case. The PR protocol has become individualized by company, shifting discussions towards strategy and providing a “seat at the table” for the PR professional. • Integrated Communications - As communications are drafted and published by various departments within the company, PR has become integrated into these goals as well. Ensuring one consistent company message that not only presents the right image but also advances the goals of sales and marketing has been engrained into the PR function. When used correctly PR has become an integral component to drive sales and increase company revenue.
  4. 4. Vocus White Paper 3 The Expanding Role of the PR Professional Adjusting to today’s PR “It’s PR that needs to be creative. It’s PR that needs to be new and different. It’s PR that needs to be original.” - Al & Laura Ries, ‘The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR’ Transitioning to today’s PR needs means working with all of the company audiences. To maximize the success of PR, it is necessary to create a solid strategy around each individual audience’s needs. • Corporate Image - While awards, events and speaking opportunities have always held value, they have never been more important to project company goals. Humanizing the company and allowing its personality to show, is a strong component of the corporate image. As the company is recognized for its expertise and leadership, the corporate image raises appropriately. • Investor Relations - Many public relations professionals have taken part in some aspect of analyst and investor relations. Today, those analyst and investors are subject to the same exposure as companies. Make sure they are included in the messages. Investor Relations is pivotal to the company’s long-term strategic vision. • Customers - Today’s PR professional needs to understand the goals of marketing and how to contribute to its success. Traditionally, press releases have focused on media and were developed to appeal to the journalists and reporters, piquing their interest enough to write a story. In recent years, the introductions of online press release services have made press releases an even more powerful tool. The new services have made it possible to cut through the clutter and reach the audience directly through the Internet. • Revenue/Sales - In the last few years SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, has gained attention for the value it offers to organization’s search rankings. Online services make press releases increasingly useful in keeping the company in organic search results and enhancing the success of the online marketing team. In some cases, these services are able to direct potential buyers to an actionable page where they can request a demo, more information or simply buy the product being offered. With coordination, PR activities can now enhance the effectiveness of company messaging, driving customers to the organization’s website and, ultimately, leading to an increase in sales and revenue. • Media Relations - As the foundation of public relations, the media is still a main target and audience. While most public relations professionals understand the needs of this audience, they are now tasked with including online outlets and bloggers as well. It is important to not lose sight of the media’s impact while adjusting to today’s expanding role. • Internal Communication - The Internet has opened up the company not only to journalists, but also to anyone with a voice and a message to convey, including company employees. It is important that the message conveyed externally mirrors the internal messages as well. With the advent of blogs and other virally spread “word of mouth outlets,” perceptions can change overnight. In today’s communications world, it is equally important to control the internal messages as well as the messages conveyed to the mass public. Getting Started As today’s role has expanded, so have the tools available to PR professionals. Effectively combining today’s tools into the PR strategy, will help lead to success. 1. Streamline and maximize resources - As PR professionals provide more and more value to their organizations, they also take on an additional work load. But, today PR professionals have access to leading PR management solutions that not only provide the foundation for strong programs but also optimize the time required to accomplish all of their objectives. PR management solutions such as Vocus, for example, save time and allow professionals to easily distribute, monitor and analyze all of their news in one place. By streamlining the everyday PR processes such as building media lists, tracking and sharing media interactions and feedback and news monitoring, PR professionals are able to free up their resources and apply them to effectively meet their goals. Using systems specifically designed for PR professionals, even lone practitioners are able to manage the demands of their new function. 2. Coordinate and integrate messages - Whether just getting started in or an experienced PR practitioner, the expanding role means learning new tricks. As the responsibilities grow outside the traditional focus area, PR professionals must expand their expertise to keep up with the changes. With the online message convergence, PR professionals need to know how to operate within the online world. Not just the basics of getting online and managing the new
  5. 5. Vocus White Paper 4 The Expanding Role of the PR Professional media landscape, but to learn and understand the basics behind search and other influential tactics for driving Internet traffic to the company website. Using online news services, such as PRWeb, professionals are able to enhance the effectiveness of their campaigns while achieving their individual publicity goals as well. Meet with the online marketing specialist to determine the messages resonating with the public. Speak with all the key players in the marketing team and coordinate the company’s messaging. In many cases, PR has already been integrated with marketing but if not, find out how to contribute to their goals and work together to achieve success for the company. 3. Determine and apply tactics - Public relations has changed beyond a set of standard protocol to follow. While the same basic principles are intact, determining audience, setting and distributing news etc, these tactics must be played on a larger scale and applied to an overall strategy. To effectively accomplish all of the expanding PR functions to reach multiple audiences, gain traction both online and off and support the company’s growth, PR professionals need to proactively determine what tactics will help them meet their goals and further the overall objectives. In the past, PR has struggled to gain attention from C-suite and top level executives. Today, many practitioners are finding themselves reporting to and determining their strategy with key company executives. Having access to a company representative with a broad understanding of the business and its goals, presents PR professionals with an enormous opportunity. Discuss the company goals and determine what PR tactics can help accomplish them. Whether the strategy is coverage driven, message oriented or a combination of both, use the availability of the executives to decide the strategy that will help the company achieve success. 4. Implement and evaluate strategy - It is not enough to simply execute and move on with the proposed strategy. PR professionals need to complete the strategy cycle and evaluate their efforts. While PR has grown in importance and companies are making a large investment in its value, PR professionals need to provide the tangible results to support this growth. As areas of the business begin to rely on PR’s impact, it is important to determine and understand the results for each effort. As campaigns and tactic are completed, take a step back and compare efforts to the amount of work needed. PR management systems are making this possible. These systems offer an affordable avenue for easily producing customized reports to create a comprehensive picture of the organization’s place within the industry, manage the company’s reputation and, most importantly, evaluate the PR efforts. In the case of Vocus, they can even create venues to showcase and highlight those efforts for the executives with news forwards, online newsrooms and executive reports. Once all the information is gathered, use it to both improve the public relations program and to gain control over the landscape. Determine where efforts have had the greatest impact and where they are working. Gathering this information allows professionals to adjust their strategies to mimic the results and maximize their impact. Conclusion As the profession grows and matures it is important to understand the new role of PR and how to apply techniques to compete in today’s business environment. Public relations can now help align and guide other company initiatives and continue to lead them forward. With the increasing potential of PR on key areas of the company’s growth, PR professionals are tasked with implementing a more solid strategy to support the company’s initiatives. Most importantly, in today’s environment PR requires flexibility. While the profession has already shifted, the coming years will continue to see it grow and transform into an even stronger component of company strategy. About Vocus Founded in 1992 by two entrepreneurs and best friends, Vocus (NASDAQ: VOCS) has grown into one of the world’s largest and fastest growing public software companies. More than 30,000 organizations around the world, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to one-person start-ups, use Vocus products and services to generate publicity and grow their businesses. Vocus software was awarded the prestigious SIIA’s CODiE for “Best Business Productivity Software” and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and Fortune. We deliver our solutions over the Internet using a secure and scalable platform that allows our customers to eliminate expensive up-front hardware and software.