Ten reasons why media relations still matter

Those who deny the importance of good public relations likely do so in calm waters, when sales are up and execution is sound. But when the inevitable storm comes and the waves start thrashing, all companies depend on their ability to shape and maintain public support.

Naturally, people make assumptions. Public relations helps quell these assumptions. Because of the famous Jaws film franchise most of us see sharks as vicious, stop-at-nothing man-eaters. In reality, roller-coasters, hot dogs, bees and lightning kill more people every year. If only sharks had realised the value of hiring a good PR representative…

The PR industry is going through some growing pains and significant changes, but the importance of effective communications has never been more pronounced than in today’s integrated media environment.

Why?

1) You need to stay visible.

As business owners lay awake at night, contemplating expenses in a slumping economy, slashing the PR budget is a bad move. Let your competitors bury their heads while you project strength. Recessions come and go but a PR professional is always there on the front lines fighting the good fight. It’s easier to maintain a positive public image than it is to rebuild one after letting it die due to budget cuts or other troubles. Businesses that survive stay connected to their core audiences through proactive PR.

2) The age of transparency has begun.

It is easier than ever to access information. If you don’t provide information first, someone else will. The best way to control what is shared is by sharing it yourself. Customers expect businesses to act with integrity, but they don’t trust adverts. Customers trust third party sources. Running a successful PR campaign allows for businesses to shape third party influence, which often leads to greater trust with core audiences.

3) A PR professional knows how to reach the relevant audiences.

It’s a PR professional’s job knowing how to connect and where. The job of a PR team is to understand how to play the cards dealt in the most efficient way possible. This means knowing all facets of any story being told, keeping up with the changing face of media, and championing the company through the right channels. Maybe those channels are a local newsletter or blog. Maybe it’s the BBC. Maybe it’s the New York Times.

4) In the social universe, messaging is key.

It isn’t enough now to merely have thousands of ‘likes’ and followers. If an organisation isn’t engaging on social media and communicating its key messages then the social media effort is a waste of time. Professional communication is vital.

5) Reputation is one of the most important words of business.

Reputation is top of mind, especially at executive level and even more so in bigger companies. Good reputation management is good PR. Good reputation management is vital.

6) Crisis is chronic.

Recent history has shown just how crucial effective crisis management is. And, in today’s fast paced media landscape, an ultra-quick response with a finely-tuned, clear message is vital. Incidents like the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf have shown just how good the executive level is at handling crisis management without good PR counsel… not at all.

7) Marketing does not necessarily equate to social media genius.

I’m arguably going against the grain here as it’s popular to say that social media management is the domain of marketing. But social media also has to have a large element of communities and engagement with the goal of achieving earned influence. While PR has some work to do when it comes to mastering social media, I believe that it is still the best equipped to leverage the social message.

8) The media is very much alive and kicking.

The scenery may have changed, but the media remains the primary influence of public opinion on just about anything. While PR teams have had to grow and adapt to keep up with the media’s new modus operandi; they are still the professionals.

9) It’s the cheapest option…

Many organisations, especially smaller ones, are on tighter budgets and so can’t spend as much as they would like to on integrated marketing. PR is the most cost-effective way to communicate a message to a broad audience.

10) Strengthen community relations.

When you make new connections, you are building ties with the local market by attending functions, joining groups, donating time to charity or causes related to your business. The business case? Being an active member of a community establishes your credibility with peers, consumers, and editorial contacts.

Every business has its unique brand message and people automatically trust brands that have a compelling or relatable story. PR allows you to carry yours wholeheartedly everywhere you go. PR allows you to promote brand values which is essentially what makes people remember you.

Ultimately, there are no substitutes for on-target messaging, astute PR counseling on difficult issues and sudden crises, and the writing of great content. The craftsmanship that goes into the art of PR cannot be reduced to web optimisation techniques and metrics. Professional journalists remain the biggest source of news, and relationships with them are as important as ever.

Sophie Attwood