Not long ago, many marketers were writing obituaries for public relations. The public’s consumption of traditional media was dropping, newspapers were closing by the dozens and reporters were being laid off in droves. It looked, for a moment, like the hotly competitive marketing space was about to get a bit leaner. Advertisers rejoiced.
But the calls for PR’s demise were misplaced. Not only has our industry refused to die, growth is keeping pace with, and by some measures, outperforming advertising.
So how did everyone get it so wrong? And why is PR growing in the marketing mix, despite the attrition in the news media?
Because we are story tellers.
Despite all the change and innovation in marketing over the past decade, one trend is absolutely clear — the rising importance of storytelling as a foundational marketing tool. And it makes sense. Storytelling is at the core of the human experience. For centuries, it was the only way to share knowledge and information from generation to generation. Today, I would argue that storytelling done well brings both authenticity and human connection to our increasingly fragmented, digital lives.
Scratch the surface of most marketing activities and what do you get? Stories. E-mail marketing. Community management. Content creation. Customer events. Even experiential activations. Telling a great brand story is almost always at the core of each of these.
And storytelling has always been the domain of PR professionals. For decades, we did that in one way – by helping brands package their information into a story and pitching it to a reporter, who’s sole job was to deliver a story to his or her audience. Today, PR firms are doing it in multiple ways; aggressively adding to our product offerings in ways that feel right and authentic to our clients.
The modern PR firm has done what every marketing agency wants to do; we’ve expanded our offering and taken over work that used to be done by other types of marketers. And it’s PR professionals’ core skillset – telling stories – that has driven the shift.