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How Public Relations is Making a Comeback


Models of PR from years past aren’t applicable in today’s marketplace

Although public relations is typically part of any advertiser’s org chart, it’s not always been clear which role PR plays exactly––or at which point in the campaign process it should step in. Nor has PR enjoyed the accolades that other functions of advertising do. But as the landscape of advertising changes and consumers can skip, block or otherwise choose not to see ads, PR is emerging as a strategic necessity––and its role is becoming clearer.


The internal PR team at Coldwell Banker and CooperKatz & Co. spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas last month about how smart home tech will have an impact on residential real estate, both buying and selling. The teams were challenged to create a three-year strategic plan that challenges conventional notions of PR. More and more, they found, clients are realizing that marketing is a multichannel effort that depends on both digital platforms and places to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. This has led organizations broadly to lean more heavily on the PR function to create and develop ideas that accelerate the pace of marketing.


Well-informed consumers who are willing to research extensively before buying are another reason PR is stepping up its game, according to Peter McGuiness, CMO for Greek yogurt brand Chobani. Being quick on their feet from a PR perspective has helped the company compete against similar brands that spend more.


Global PR powerhouse Edelman is now starting to work with brands and ad firms right at the beginning of the process, rather than later on. The agency is working closely with Adobe, for instance, to create digital activations for their creative products. This earned Edelman the Gold PR Lion in 2015 at Cannes for the Adobe Photoshop “Murder Mystery” campaign.


What’s next? One challenge might be getting other functions to understand and adapt how PR should work in an ideal world. Claudia Strauss, CEO of Grey Activation & PR, says her firm trains its entire staff to better educate them on what works beyond paid collateral.


Edelman is focused on creating a new, holistic strategy that doesn’t resemble the traditional PR agency of the past––but without becoming an ad firm. The idea is to build on the talent of specialists in different areas to complete a marketing idea in its fullest form. Doing so will extend reach beyond media relations, and hopefully, directly to the consumer themselves.