“Stranger Things” in Public Relations

Public relations can expose some interesting, challenging and even spooky situations. Oftentimes, PR professionals can feel lost when it comes to delivering (and measuring) results for their clientele. Unless specific goals and key performance indicators are set and understood from the start, trouble can arise.

Additionally, the call to quantify public relations’ value for the boardroom can seem never-ending. Many are even starting to eliminate some (or all) of the PR line item from budgets through the use of new marketing technologies such as artificial intelligence and Chatbots.

Let’s pause for a second. A career in PR requires many skills — from  communications to organizational — and  the requirements of these positions continue to evolve. Roles and responsibilities also include the task of connecting clients with key influencers. These personas might include a keen reporter with a large following; a revered industry analyst writing a trends report; a thought leader evangelist speaking at a major tradeshow.

The list doesn’t stop there. PR pros are responsible for creating and facilitating publicity opportunities in as many ways as possible — and  creating the corresponding value through mass awareness, enabling lead-and-demand generation, developing/nurturing key relationships, and more.

But, what if PR professionals could buck the status quo and help their clients become the reporter, the analyst, the evangelist? What if PR pros have the opportunity to inject life back into this strategic business initiative?
Pipe dream? Think again.

Stranger Things Unveiled

For those of you who are Stranger Things fans, you understand the “upside down” as an alternate, but corresponding dimension to the human world. It contains a similarities [to the human world], but is presented as a much darker, colder and scarier world. It lacks human life, though it definitely has its share of predators, and is infested with biological tendrils that cover the entire surface and seem to have a mind of their own.

For marketers and PR professionals, creating publicity doesn’t just happen out of thin air. It necessitates operational efficiency, teamwork and buy-in/participation amongst multiple stakeholders — and this is a systematic approach that needs to be refined and improved over time. In short, publicity requires a human element that cannot be replicated.

We now live in a world where noise is abundant. Where people (and companies) are having screaming matches over social media and marketing programs are being commoditized. A world that is seeing the art of journalism die, publisher consolidation and digital ads consuming more space on the screens we view the world through. Oh, and did I mention that our devices are listening and learning from us — all  the time? As a marketer, it can feel like the human element of PR and marketing is slipping away — like we are stuck in the upside down.

Scary, I know. But there is something than can be done.

It all starts with a change in mindset — something different that pulls us (PR pros) out of the upside down and back into the world we once knew and thrived within. Instead of trying to win the screaming match on social or using only the same tactics as everyone else to deliver the standard ROI our client’s demand, what if we could use the power of our richest commodity to rejuvenate the PR discipline and get it back to the executive table?

Of course, I am talking about words.

Words matter. They matter a lot — and especially in how we use them. Words have the power to change a dialogue, inspire hope and expand imagination. So how do we “wordsmiths” leverage this power to get out of the upside down?

First, by not using the same words as everyone else, and second, by not repeating the same phrases as everyone else. How do we do that? Here are three tips:

  • Do your research. Enlist a perception audit team to conduct independent research of what people are saying about your company in the marketplace. And, not just what they are saying about you, but also your competition, your industry, etc.
  • Take an assessment. Enlist the help of a PR consultancy or third-party marketing research team to validate or disprove your assumptions about the narrative in your industry. Again, have them examine your company messaging and PR communications and see how you compare/contrast to your competition’s industry narrative.
  • Test new messages early and often. Engage your communities — especially those you engage with the most — and ask for honest feedback. Leverage relationships with analysts to get their take. Do A/B testing on email marketing campaigns. Ask your customers how they can relate.

While it is scary in the upside down, we must look at the experience as an opportunity. It is a unique opportunity to rise above industry jargon, develop stories that matter, shape industry narratives for the better and ultimately, win in the marketplace. But we must reconsider our steps to how we get there. Using the same 15 words as everyone else just won’t cut it anymore.