Finding good PR ROI after ‘the end of public relations’

A businessman looks to solve the problem of the end of the road.

All good things eventually come to a conclusion. Even the concept of public relations, or at least what we all think is meant by public relations right now.

Far be it from us to celebrate the demise of said sector, though, especially when it’s Smoking Gun’s raison d’être. Of course we don’t believe PR will disappear from the face of the Earth any time soon. In fact, far from it.

Nevertheless, we understand why The Holmes Report found that 90% of execs working in the field believe the term will not accurately characterise what they do for a living within the next five years.

This is because times change, and they change particularly quickly in this day and age. Already the demands placed on public relations professionals are vastly different to what they were a decade ago, and almost unrecognisable compared with 20 years ago.

More measurable and evidence-based work is being done, affording a better chance to prove PR ROI. Having said that, there’s no denying there are higher expectations, and much more varied and far-reaching responsibilities compared with less tech-driven eras.

The result being a job description that has altered and been dramatically adapted since the millennium, and one that will continue to switch up in the near future. But, rather than this happening because of technology— social media, smartphones, streaming services— the big changes set to unfold are going to be largely brought on by consumer behaviour.

It’s news to nobody that the public is becoming far more cynical towards brands. At the same time, they are also quick to welcome, and keen to allow themselves to be courted by, companies that are authentic. Or as authentic as possible.

Tapping into this trend is the only way to guarantee PR ROI continues to improve.

This story on PR Daily goes into great detail about how the lines between public relations and marketing will continue to blur, and tactics from the latter are likely to be increasingly adopted by the former. Almost half of the PR pros in The Holmes Report research, and more than 60% of marketers, think that will be the case.

Trusted partner mark imprinted on a paper background with rubber stamp. Concept of trust in business and partnership.

This isn’t so much a case of one absorbing the other, though. Instead, the new model must be based on a more collaborative approach to developing and building brand names and reputations. The two departments have similar but separate skillsets, and these can complement each other perfectly, producing exceptional marketing and PR ROI when they do.

To give an example, while content marketing remains a hugely powerful tactic, the demand for authenticity means this should be combined with a public relations approach— which is heavily reliant on relationships with proven masters of audience communication: i.e. bloggers, journalists and influencers. By taking this approach a campaign will likely garner better PR ROI than if the two departments remain largely autonomous.

All of which dictates, rather than encourages, calling on media and marketing partners that are adaptable and forward-thinking enough to recognise these changes before they become industry-wide. Firms that know how to stay ahead of the curve, as it were.

Brands that fail to realise this, and departments and agencies that allow themselves to fall behind, will struggle to see PR ROI climb in coming years, or any other ROI for that matter, as their approach grows less and less relevant to the public and the goal of business promotion.

Read our guide to earned media