Part of being a transparent business means sharing thoughts, ideas and strategies about who we are as an organization, and an extended organization. With this in mind, I thought turning the tables on our own PR team would be fun. I decided to forward along some “who are you and what are you thinking”questions to Liz and Anne of Jaxson Group. If you do not consider your PR team as part of your greater integrated marketing efforts, then you might want to revisit what PR means to you.
Question: What is Public Relations (PR), and why do companies invest in it?
Anne Coyle: In most general terms, public relations refers to the planning and communications an organization undertakes on behalf of its brand, executive team, products and services to reach a number of audiences. These can include investors, customers, partners, journalists, analysts and market influencers as well as employees, competitors, fans and a host of others. Public relations is often used interchangeably with media relations, because that channel is easy to measure and understandable to the greatest number of people. However, there is a public relations element anytime a person can say “I saw you guys in Forbes,” “You should see the comments about you on this blog,” or “Smartest Analyst Ever said you guys are great.”
Companies invest in public relations to share corporate strengths, points of differentiation and news, to a number of audiences. Public relations can be used to launch products and services, enter new markets, reach influencers, gain capitol, increase a customer base and publicize corporate programs- essentially PR plays an important role in a company’s integrated marketing efforts. Organizations also use public relations to present a coherent, singular communications channel regarding all news and developments, which can include earnings, response to an issue, changes in an executive structure or changes in a market strategy.
Question: Is PR the same thing it was 10 years ago? If no, how has it changed? If no, has everything changed, or just some aspects?
Liz Erk & Anne: Given the changes in media and marketing over the past three years, writing a general definition about PR was tough. Defining exactly what PR is now is almost impossible, given the constantly shifting landscape of how people communicate and the challenge of capturing and keeping attention. So we’d have to say PR is the same as it was 10 years ago in terms of the fundamentals of WHY people engage PR- at the end of the day it’s all in an effort to help drive awareness. But the process of HOW you conduct PR has not only changed, it’s actually different for each company, depending on specific goals, agendas, market, etc.
If a company is receiving a “one size fits all approach” from its PR team (ie- stand alone press releases and blanket-mailing them to media & analysts), they really should evaluate what value they’re getting- particularly because with the advent of social media, PR has become closely tied with customer service and become another channel in which people communicate with businesses. For example, how often do you see consumers sharing feedback and experiences with a particular business, followed by the PR department issuing a response? The answer is: quite a bit, and in instances like that it’s a tremendous litmus test as to whether or not a company truly understood its customers’ feelings.
Question: Do you think people understand the objectives of PR?
Liz: I believe people understand the basic function of what PR is intended for, but I think people are more surprised when they realize how many areas are impacted by PR. For example, one piece of news communicated via blog can go viral and attract buzz across Twitter, Facebook, other blogs, and mainstream press. News can take on a life of its’ own when the right ingredients are involved. Reputation management is a major part of PR, so it’s not only important to share news, it’s critical to pay attention and sometimes respond to topics that are being talked about “out there.”
Also, enhancing relationships between companies and their customers is a huge part of PR. Joint communications and sharing best-practices demonstrates pride and strength between both parties, unifying everyone involved and putting them into more dynamic leadership positions.
Question: What is Crisis Management, from a PR perspective? Is it the same as it was 10 years ago? Do most companies have a crisis plan these days?
Liz: Crisis management can mean different things to different people, ranging from figuring out how to respond to a negative company perception to addressing a tough situation on-the-fly. It’s different than 10 years ago for sure because back then you had more time to assess a situation and formulate a response. The quickest area you had to be mindful of was news websites posting an article. Nowadays news travels like wildfire with the advent of Twitter, blogs, Facebook and other instant communication vehicles, and then add that to rapid search channels like Google that index topics almost immediately.
For example, in January of 2009 credit card payment processor Heartland tried to quietly announce what was one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history on the morning of President Obama’s inauguration. Despite the country’s focus on the presidential activities, bloggers reported on the news just as fast as it was released. The news spread pretty quickly and once the inauguration was over, Heartland received a very bright spotlight, not just for the breach, but for the timing. 10 years ago Heartland might have gotten through that without question, but not with the instant communication channels that have really taken hold since around 2004.
Question: What is the relationship between PR and CRM, or Social CRM?
Liz: PR & CRM/ Social CRM go hand in hand (in hand) because it all boils down to effective communication. CRM is a direct vehicle to customers, while PR is a channel customers pay close attention to when it comes to brands that have their attention. Social CRM is right up there with Social PR- instant and very personal. You cannot afford to ignore either one, particularly because they’re not “one way streets.” They come with many twists and turns with multiple voices that want to be heard and responded to.
Question: (Directed to Rachel Tait, Marketing Manager Americas) Why is Jaxson group different?
Simply put – their passion. Jaxson group have a hunger for success that other agencies lacked, and from the outset it was obvious that they loved what they do and are highly motivated to deliver real results to their clients. While many agencies may say what they think you want to hear, I truly believe that Liz and Anne form an extension of the Sword Ciboodle virtual team – and I am confident they will represent Ciboodle, and what it is to be a Ciboodler, in the best possible light. They got me excited about PR again, and what results Ciboodle can potentially achieve in the media. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together.
My POV: You probably saw our post about Nicor National’s selection of Sword Ciboodle to support the revamping of their CRM process and system. We, as an integrated team are completely confident in The Jaxson Group. The ideas and initiative are a welcome change! In the Nicor release, it was important to us to add a little extra insight that isn’t found in a typical press release by way of a blog post Q&A with Nicor National’s Barbara Porter. Because really, the team want to move beyond writing and issuing the boring “same old same old” – Cheers from Ciboodle land!