How Valuable is the History Lesson? The Value of Experience in PR Part 2

Credit: Andrew Horne
Credit: Andrew Horne

I used to. We did. When we. These are just three of the warning signs that come up when someone is about to explain a campaign or tactic that they did in the past. They are typically followed by details of what worked and guidance on how that could be applied to the current situation.

It would be naïve and arrogant just to dismiss the insights gained, but if the history lesson is more than 5 years old, the chances are it will be past its sell-by date. The technological changes in marketing (and in PR for that matter) have just been so steep. In fact, some experts argue that marketing has changed more in the last 5 years than the last 500.

In the last post, I looked at how these changes have impacted large strategic PR projects like messaging and positioning, but the ripple effect goes much further. As while PR pros could once rely on TV, newspapers, magazines, and maybe some radio to reach their audiences, the reality today is very different.

To simplify the explosion in channels, many marketing and PR organizations added new teams (and some ridiculous new titles) that focus on specific areas. Lots of PR agencies initially did the same, only to find that breaking out social was akin to separating bread and butter. So if this was the wrong approach, what does the ideal structure now look like?

The Harvard Business Review suggests that’s the wrong question to ask. Instead, it recommends that marketing leaders ask themselves “What values and goals guide our brand strategy, what capabilities drive marketing excellence, and what structures and ways of working will support them?” I couldn’t agree more and believe the same is true for PR and communications.

What does this mean for how we reach our audiences? It means that looking at individual channels is a blinkered approach. Instead, we need to think holistically and embrace brand journalism. As Larry Light, former global CMO of McDonald’s and the former chief brands officer at InterContinental Hotels Group, said: brand journalism is now a modern marketing imperative and involves creating “a continuing flow of valuable, relevant, integrated and engaging content — advertising, articles, blog posts, social media, live events, videos and social media.” In other words, it’s a blueprint for modern PR.

That’s not to say that we throw everything out. The relationship building skills that have always been central to reaching and engaging audiences are more valuable today than ever before. We just need to move beyond the idea of a simple Rolodex and instead look at how those skills can be complemented by the wealth of data and technology that we now have available.

Having now looked at the relevance of experience to both strategic and tactical PR programs, the next post will go back to the question of whether experience in PR is an asset or anchor.