How to Utilize Public Relations Without Sacrificing Your Own Narrative
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Public relations — all brands and businesses need it. Most have it. Only some use it correctly. To be fair, there’s a certain level of fear that comes with PR collaboration. You’re entrusting a person or agency to be your sounding board and craft sounds that others enjoy listening to. Big deal? Yes. Important for growth? Double yes.
The 2020 JOTW Communications Survey cited data & analytics, storytelling and blogging as top communication tactics used by PR specialists. More and more, PR seems to be merging with content marketing. It’s a natural union but increases the anxiety of maintaining a narrative — your narrative. The story and brand identity that you and your team have worked so hard to cultivate.
Understand what PR is, why it matters and how to use it, and you’ll be able to keep your narrative intact.
What Is PR?
Public relations is about managing your messaging. When you hire a PR consultant, they meet with you, help develop your story, and share this story via strategic messaging.
At this point, you control the narrative. It’s your story to tell and to craft with help from your PR guru. Things go well. Word on the block is that you’re the next big deal. Your business thrives and popularity ensues.
And here’s where things start to get complicated — as your brand grows, other people are needed in order to keep sharing your story. The messaging now travels between many different sets of hands. Cue the terror.
Why PR matters
Terrifying or not, public relations builds your image. It gets you discovered. It helps you grow. And, as I mentioned earlier, it’s changing — becoming all-encompassing, even.
In fact, just a few years ago a report put together by the USC Center for Public Relations found that 87% of surveyed PR executives believed the term "public relations" would not describe the work they did in the future. This aligns with the idea that PR and content marketing are playing in the same sandbox more often than not.
Let’s take it a step further — communicators cite web traffic, web analytics, impressions and email open rates as the top three metrics they’re using to determine messaging effectiveness. Wouldn’t content marketers rely on the same metrics? The overlap is clear. Plus, web traffic is dependent on quality content being published to a website.
While PR might’ve felt like its own corner in the past, it’s not anymore. PR should be treated as an integral component of a larger content marketing strategy. Director of Communications Liz Feezor (Hennessey Digital) explains that the marketing and communications functions — or MarComms — must be integrated for PR to work effectively.
“Our marketing and communications teams are intrinsically linked because there’s a lot of overlap between the two areas, particularly around company messaging," Feezor said. "We strategize together on core messages and make sure these are driving our blog content, press releases, media messaging and marketing communications. Consistency is key in getting your message to land."
As you grow, you’ll need more content. Messaging opportunities will abound. That singular, identity-defining story will expand into new pieces of content. New bite-sized nuggets of information. New pathways for people to follow in order to learn more about who you are and what you do.
Hear this: You don’t have to lose grasp of your brand’s story. Consider the tips below to help you maintain ownership of your narrative.
Tips for maintaining your own narrative
1. Stay current with PR trends
You have a lot on your plate. You hire a PR team to take some of it off of your plate. Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself apprised of trends within the PR realm. Doing so keeps you fresh and focused.
You’ll heed suggestions from your team, of course, but it’s worth knowing how those suggestions spawned from the PR blueprint. Staying up to date with ever-evolving industry trends will help you accomplish this.
For example, has this past year shifted how brands communicate with people? And not just medium-wise, but in their messaging? Similarly, how are most people consuming content these days? Digitally is a logical choice, but what kind of digital? What kind of content?
Your PR team will have answers to these questions, but it never hurts to dig a little deeper yourself. Understand the game so that you can play it well.
2. Foster collaboration with your PR team
This might seem like a no-brainer. Obviously I want a good relationship with the people managing my messaging.
However, you know as well as I do that sometimes collaboration is tricky. Understand your team as people first, then employees. Utilize your newfound understanding of the industry to really see what your team is doing.
Did you know that B2B marketers who focus on the long-term over short-term often find more success than their competition? Like all good things in life, quality PR strategy takes time. Hire your team, collaborate with your team and trust the process. There are a dozen different adages about patience, and PR/content marketing require heaping platefuls of it.
3. Tell the story the way you want the first time
In early meetings with your PR and marketing teams, settle on a story in its truest form. What is your narrative? How should it be shared? This goes beyond the story itself. Create branding and editorial guides to streamline messaging when it’s being managed by multiple teams.
This will prove handy when it comes time to create more content — different hands, same voice. You want content that feels like it’s all coming from the same entity. Whether that’s you or your business is for you to decide.
Get your story right the first time. Moving forward, shift your focus to keeping this story consistent.
4. Leverage the merger between PR and content marketing
A 2020 study by Edelman found that 89% of decision makers say thought leadership pieces can positively influence their perception of a business or organization. There’s a content option. Plus, digital storytelling and blogging in general continue to grow.
See the opportunity? Experiment with the content you create and how it shares your brand’s story. For example, what advantage does a video post to Instagram have over a blog post on your company’s website? What if they were related to each other? If you're interested in pursuing thought leadership pieces, what will these look like?
Yes, PR’s shift toward being part of a larger content marketing plan means more duties to juggle for your PR team, but it also creates possibilities — more content, more mediums and more creativity. With well-formed marketing strategies and a strong team around you, it will also equal better messaging.