Is PR relevant in a social media world?

Regular readers of the ‘slice know that I frequently rant about the need for marketers to be more accountable.  Given the challenge of measuring the direct impact of PR, I could take the easy position that you should kill your PR program because you can’t measure it.  In the past year,  however, I’ve entered this debate in the unusual position of a defender of PR as a growth driver.  My experience in turning PR on and off in companies has shown me the lift (and drop) that comes from a well crafted program.

What?  Mr. Tangyslice is going to recommend investing in a program with limited direct measurement?   The answer is yes and here is my logic.

  • Old media is not dead (yet). I know that the prognosis isn’t great for old media but the national TV nightly news still has millions of viewers and depending on your product or service, you may need all of those eyeballs.
  • Traditional press still has online outlets to syndicate your content.
  • PR is about telling your story.  Without editorial outreach you are missing a powerful way to get a third party to validate your message.
  • It isn’t just about traditional media.  Social media is an important part of any integrated PR plan.
  • Content is still king. A well formulated PR plan will generate fresh content for  all of your channels.  I know this is a very “push” view of the world, but sharing is one part of joining the social media discussions and there just isn’t that much new content out there these days.
  • There are still many opinion makers in “old media”. Have you checked out the number of followers the “old media” reporters and news anchors have on Twitter?
  • They still writing about you. Whether you formally participate or not, the press is still writing or talking about your space.  It is pretty much always better to be involved.
  • If you have news.  If you have a new product or service, PR and word of mouth remain really powerful and leveraged ways to get the word out.
  • PR is cost effective.  On a pure cost per impression basis, PR can be a really cheap way to get your message out.  The bigger question is whether or not you reach the right people with you message.

So how do you avoid falling into the accountability trap?

In a perfect world, we would all have spare budget to measure awareness before and after our campaigns.  Absent that, you can start with clear and measurable goals.  You probably have a sense of your baseline sales,  traffic and lead flow and can look at your lift from those levels.   Your referrer logs can tell you alot about your traffic sources.  And finally, look for those rare times when you get a big press hit and nothing else is going on.

OK, this is your chance to blast me.  Take your best shot.  Mr Accountable Marketing has let his guard down.  Anyone want to take the other side of this argument?

Author: Frank Days

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