Getting PRide back

By Simon Moss, Associate Director & Head of Business Development

In this blog, our team often comments on the world of tech, and the latest business trends and, while not a complete divergence, I wanted to use this week’s post to be a bit more reflective.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the PRCA National Conference. If you haven’t come across it yet, the PRCA is the PR industry body that carries out a wide number of functions, from lobbying and training to charity work.

The theme for this year’s conference was an extremely interesting one: ‘Embracing Change’.

‘Change’ in this instance was broadly defined as societal shifts (for example Brexit and the 2016 US election), technological shifts (impacting how we live, work and buy) and business shifts (‘Goliath’ brands failing) and what this means for the PR industry.

The good news – for us at least – is that it means opportunity! These factors have combined to create ‘the age of earned’ – which puts PR firmly ‘in the sunlight’ and at the heart of the marketing mix, according to speakers and panellists at the show.

The ‘age of earned’ essentially boils down to the importance of traditional earned media in shaping public opinion, given the very obvious lack of trust in established pillars of society. Something further exacerbated by fake news.

The reasoning makes sense. The ability for PR firms to earn reputation for their clients, doing so across multiple channels, and to create experiences with brands, is unrivalled. If we accept that the purpose of PR is ‘to protect and enhance brand reputation’ – then this creates huge opportunity at a time when consumer confidence can be lost on the basis of one bad tweet. One excellent example cited was the fateful day that Snapchat had more than a billion dollars wiped off its value after one unhelpful tweet from social media mega-star Kylie Jenner who said she no longer used the platform.

Enlightened CEOs must understand the value of trust and the downfall that follows when it evaporates.

Yet, set against this, it was claimed that the PR industry is suffering from a lack of confidence. As an industry, conference speakers said, we have lost pride in the primary influence of PR in the marketing mix and instead sought to justify our place in it.

A 30-year advertising veteran who closed the conference said that those on the outside looking in (such as advertising professionals) accept that we as PR professionals are on the same hallowed ground that advertisers occupied in the 90s.

It was fascinating to listen to so many established industry leaders and hear their thoughts on the present and future of our industry.

In many ways they echo the belief at Whiteoaks that PR has, is and will continue to be vital to brands. The wider societal shifts outlined at the top of this blog absolutely strengthen our resolve. We are proud to represent many disruptive B2B tech companies that, now more than ever, require measured, bespoke communications to facilitate their growth.

While the PR and communications industry is definitely not just about traditional media relations any more, the need for cohesion across many different channels is obvious – and PR is at the very heart of it.