Influence a business, not just its PR strategy

A simple name check or piece of coverage isn’t enough – PR has to work harder, and do something extra for the brand. Increasingly, PROs have to turn to business consultancy in the quest to establish long-term relationships with brands and their CEOs.

There’s no doubt that the world loves a “first” but PROs can’t rely on brands to come up with breakthrough technology or a product not even Silicon Valley has dreamt of yet. Putting a great PR strategy together to shout about The Next Big Thing is wonderful, and can bring a crop of awards. Just look at last years PR awards: the winners’ lists are littered with the launch of the “first” this, that and the other. So what, you might ask.

The interesting part is where these new, award winning, products and services come from. Are we as PROs keeping up with other marketing disciplines by challenging the traditional ideas generation flow? Are we trying to influence the development of products and services enough for the brands we work for – or want to work with? I’m not so sure our industry is doing itself justice at the moment – and it’s in danger of becoming nugatory.

We as PROs need to come up with ideas that will directly develop and influence a business. PR should be about not just launching new ideas, but coming up with them! And not just to grab a headline or two – the idea has to relate to a target audience, and therefore drive something powerful for the brand. The world has changed, and PROs have to evolve with it. Otherwise, we’ll continue to be seen as the lesser discipline in the marketing mix.

There are many reasons for this but for me, two are key. Firstly, businesses and brands have had to completely change how they act, respond and develop because of the changing consumer landscape. We, as consumers, have more influence as well as greater demands on brands. We all want better products, fairer treatment, more meaningful engagement and quicker reactions. These consumer demands have been alien to many brands until only recently.

And secondly, while the entire marketing industry battles for space and relevance, PR is having to work harder to gain recognition and value.

No buts. Small firms may be more agile, but don’t moan about your client being too big therefore already having dedicated resources for planning and developing the brand, product range and services. That may be true, but PROs are generally more in tune with society, constantly listening to what consumers want and do. We’re ideas people – if you don’t think you are, you need to change or surround yourself with people who are – and we can’t be shy of stepping on other industries’ toes.

Not only will your clients love you for developing their brand, but by default, you’ll become closely engrained in their business strategy.

Sean Williams, deputy managing director at London PR agency, Brazil

What’s your ESG risk?