Most public relations professionals don’t think their functional namesake will accurately describe their work in the future.
That’s according to the 2017 Global Communications Report, from the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism at USC. The report found “87% of PR executives believe the term ‘public relations’ does not describe their future.”
Why? The evolution of digital media has facilitated the integration of previously distinct marketing disciplines. The lines blurred and responsibilities were woven together – with the benefit of tighter integration.
Does this mean the end of the road for the PR? Will the professional communicator be subsumed permanently by marketing?
No, I don’t think that’s the case. It’s just the opposite.
Instead, the approach good PR professionals champion is permeating marketing. I’m not sure PR pros are ready for this because it dramatically raises bar on what is excellence. The competition is coming from all sides. This is evident in that core PR tenants have been prominently at work in marketing trends over the last decade.
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The influence of PR was clear in search marketing when Google became the new front page. We saw it in the rise of social media, where authenticity reigned and rejected commercialization. The PR approach was apparent too in inbound marketing – earning attention and forgoing interruption marketing.
Today, content marketing is guided by the same editorial principles inherent to effective PR for decades: trust, education, utility, and in some cases, entertainment. As I’m prone to say, PR is the best-kept secret in effective content marketing.
These ideas are not new, but it has taken an inordinate amount of time for the PR community to come to the same realization.
For example, a 2010 survey of 966 PR professionals I led for my then employer, PR software maker Vocus, drew similar conclusions. The results, in part, prompted the company’s CEO at that time to observe that marketing increasingly looks more like PR.
PR isn’t being subsumed by marketing – it’s shaping a better approach to marketing. PR isn’t diminishing in business value – it’s more strategic than ever. PR isn’t becoming less important – it’s becoming more important.
So, while I believe the conclusion, that the term “public relations” might indeed be less fitting in the future, I draw that conclusion for a very different reason. Successful businesses and marketing leaders will seize on this as an opportunity; the future of marketing looks more like public relations.
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