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Amid the Rapid Pace of Change, These 5 Fundamentals of PR are Still Essential

5 Fundamentals of PR are Still Essential

Two is the new five.

When people ask what will happen in the next five years, the chances are, whatever it is, will happen in just two.

A client of one of my clients said that at a seminar and it really captures the sense for the pace of change. It’s not just that change is making this happen faster, it’s the change itself is coming faster too.

That was the opening to the August 2018 Monthly Scripts email newsletter and a fitting opening when one steps back and looks over the 10 articles out of a couple hundred that made the cut.  Almost all of them reported something new – new roles, new responsibilities, new technology, new, new, new.

For all the new priorities being added, very few priorities are coming off. As such, the pace of modern public relations (PR) professional’s day-to-day work is fast and intense. It’s remarkable how much we get done.

It often causes me to wonder, when we went to the office 20 years ago…what did we do all day? I think it’s that we spent a little more time on the fundamentals, which if we can pause long enough to take a breath, break down like this:

It's not just that change is making this happen faster, it’s the change itself is coming faster too. 1) Audience identification

Any effective communication program must begin with identifying the target audience. This is all-inclusive research, of understanding the wants, needs and behavioral triggers of a population segment. The imperative here is to focus on the audience needs, not what a business or brand wants to say.

2) Clearly defined positioning

Whether a business has defined it’s positioning or not, every brand has one. Three department stores provide a clear way to view positioning – think about the differences between Walmart, Target and Nordstrom. Each occupies a unique position in the market and more importantly, our expectation of the experience we will have in those stores.

It is more challenging in B2B marketing, but characteristics like speed, scale, reliability, and customer experience (CX) all contribute.  Positioning is what you are and what people believe you are. In technology, the classic comparison of Salesforce to Oracle is an iconic example. Salesforce positioned itself as the antidote to software as it brought predictable pricing and short-circuited premise software implementations.


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3) Messaging

Messaging is the intersection of audience identification and positioning. PR needs messages to do one important thing: Resonate. The path to finding messages that resonate begins by answering these questions:

a) what do people think about your business or brand today?

b) what do you want people to think?

c) what messages can you send that facilitates how you want to be perceived?

4) Message distribution

Message distribution is medium of conveyance – it’s how you get a message to an identified audience. It used to be we had three choices:

  • Rent a medium with advertising;
  • Earn coverage in a medium by being useful; or
  • Earn word-of-mouth with guerrilla marketing.

Today, there are both more options within those traditional choices and more options. The cost of publishing is such that we can build our own medium. That is the essence of content marketing and why PR and content marketing work best when working together.

5) Feedback and measurement

After the first fours steps in of these PR fundamentals, evaluation is required. Traditionally, it was challenging to link a message to an outcome, which has changed considerably as information became digitalized. Now, we can measure web traffic acquisition and behavior with accuracy.

That feedback loop happens at far greater speeds today – you can put a message in the market and understand pretty quickly if its resonating. Indeed, for many in PR, that’s a big part of the reason why two feels like the new five.

* * *

Note: The Monthly Scripts is a free monthly email that distills hundreds of articles down to just 10 “must reads” once every 30 days. It’s a good way to stay on top of things. You can subscribe here.


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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
9 Timeless PR Positioning Strategies

Photo credit: Unsplash

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