Is PR in a social conundrum?

interviewLet’s suppose you’re sitting in a job interview to be the next director of communications for a large, well-known B2B brand.

The key aspect of the role is public relations and of course you’re well versed in the art of how to manage the flow of information.

After all, you’ve done it a zillion times before. So what’s new? Well, that’s kind of true. PR had its place in the marketing mix, was focused on creating awareness, grabbing headlines, engaging with the media and creating an environment where the sale was more likely to place as a result.

Control and timing was everything, wasn’t it? PR’s big brother marketing was a discipline that focused on the channels to market, ensured there were enough leads pouring into the sales funnel so that there was a higher chance of conversion of those leads.

Problem is this describes the world as you used to know it before 2004. Facebook came along and quite literally tore up the rule book.

The skills that future directors of communications must have look a lot different to the ones they may have possessed a decade earlier. PR is in a social conundrum. Telling great stories and writing Pulitzer winning news releases doesn’t go quite far enough.

You must now be able to create and distribute compelling content that draws the B2B or B2C customer, client or supporter into your brand world.

Marketing is then focused at producing engaging incentives that convert prospects onto sales leads. It’s up to agencies and brand owners as to how they split or share ownership of platforms like Facebook and Twitter but it’s vital that PR and marketing folk take full responsibility for resultant sales as well as the content that flows through these channels.

Directors of communication no longer call the shots or control the flow of information as this is now permanently ‘on’. Like it or not, media relations is now just one strand of the content creation and distribution process of which the director of communications is now responsible.

But this shouldn’t come as any surprise to those of us who’ve been in this industry for any period of time. It’s more about evolution than revolution. All-in-one marketing solutions like Vocus provide tools for automating emails and other marketing and PR tactics, for understanding a brand’s buyers and most significantly, closed-loop analytics.

This can be sub-divided into five key performance areas:

  • Awareness  – can be measured in terms of fans, followers, subscribers, and Facebook impressions.
  • Influence  – can be measured by mentions by influencers.
  • Engagement  – can be measured in terms of brand mentions, retweets, clicks, likes, @replies, DMS, wall posts, comments and site visits.
  • Conversions  – can be measured in terms of content downloads such as white paper downloads, lead generation forms, pitches, proposals, and webinar attendees.
  • Sales  – can be measured in terms of online, phone and in-person sales.

What this means in practice is that PR and marketing have converged to close the loops not only within their own disciplines but also between them so that they must now be in tandem in order to get a handle on the cumulative impact of these activities from end to end.

Tomorrow’s director of communications will need to have a deep understanding of this stuff as well as social media and its impact on the behaviour of desired audience and customer segments.

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