Thursday, 12 November 2009

PR - The pivotal player

With the promise of thought leadership from the PRCA, I’m pleased to announce the first in a series of guest posts from the PR Industry’s finest. First up Mark Stringer, Founder of Pretty Green.

Being asked to write on someone else's blog, is a bit like staying at someone else’s house; it's nice to be asked round, but once you get there you realize you prefer the comfort and security of your own home where there's a lock on all the toilet doors - There's nothing more embarrassing than walking in on your best mate’s wife and trying to explain that you didn't realise she was on the toilet.

Anyway, here I am, sitting in Francis’ front room, having a good snoop around. First impressions: It's obvious that he is passionate about the industry, what it stands for and what it can achieve. I think we might get along, as long as I don’t overstay my welcome…

I share his views, but, having not come from a public affairs background, I'm less ‘Minister’ and more ‘Court Jester’, whose perspective is that our role as PR Professionals is to create and harness content to drive positive brand reputation through the way we behave.

I've a great respect for public affairs, stakeholder management, NGOs; the hard-nosed, behind-the-scenes aspect of the industry. But, I still believe that PR can sit on the top table, without having to be a Corporate Agency. It just means we have to be more strategic and more creative.

Undoubtedly the pet hate for every agency-person is being perceived as the agency that simply promotes what someone else has created. "We've got this (insert Advert, promotion, new bottle etc), can you just get some coverage". A frustrating but popular misconception of what PR is all about.

In today's combusted landscape the beauty is that creating and distributing content is easier than ever before and the PR industry now has a great opportunity to become not only a seat warmer at the top table, but the pivotal player.

We're better placed to lead Digital than the media agencies or the Ad agencies because we know how to integrate it into the editorial mix rather than looking at it as an isolated entity. We are skilled in creating experiences that not only bring brands to life but also deliver editorial and we know how to build strong brand reputations.

But the magic happens when we are able to create as well as distribute. What's interesting is you're often a minority if you talk about your creative director, or creative team, something I've never understood.

Yes PR people are generally more creative than a lot of other disciplines, due to the need to write and create stories on a daily basis, but true ‘creatives’ will always be an essential part of the mix; people who stretch the boundaries and make us feel uncomfortable. The big thinkers, whose ides continue to push us and excite us (and initially leave us dumbfounded).

Anyway, now's the time for us all to believe we belong round the top table, and that we can drive the full marketing agenda, not just the news agenda, and organisations like the PRCA can help us achieve that.

But, as I said before, I feel like I'm sat in someone else's front room and I shouldn't really be ranting too much or I might not be invited round again. Besides, we've got Beyonce in town, so I'm off to find some buskers as we've got some content to create and distribute for Trident and given that as of Friday we've got one less paper to sell-in to, we're going to have to work that little bit harder.

And as one person asked in the office, does the decline of London Lite mean that we'll return to the halcyon days of hearing "Standard, Standard! Read all about it"? We do hope so.

Thanks for having me... I’ll make sure I shut the door behind me.

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