It is time we review the way we approach PR and embrace a modern, creative and integrated movement called ‘brand management, writes Jeanri-Tine van Zyl.
As a communications practitioner with her feet planted on the journalist and public relations side of the fence, I am well acquainted with the standard press release.
In my role as journalist, I receive more inquiries about my current state of wellbeing than a patient in an ICU ward, and as a public relations practitioner I’ve certainly walked around with my proverbial prescription pad: trust you are well, can I prescribe a daily dose of happy news?
However, the truth is that the standardised form of PR reaches much deeper than the introductory greeting – and I would like to argue for change.
Various people have highlighted the point of ‘template’ PR before, journalists and PR professionals, and yet the form hardly ever changes. Consultancies remain locked in their ‘safe houses’, churning out content in a form moulded by the fax machine era.
As communications practitioners, we are experiencing a creative epoch like none before. There have never been this many media channels through which we can promote our clients and gain exposure – and there have never been this many channels to shape and share public opinion, action and reaction.
It is the great wave of our generation and the way to catch it is by angling content differently.
Forget punting ‘publicity’ as your single great service. The smorgasbord of social sites has made ‘celebrities’ of us all; people publish and create their own online shrines. It is how these are managed which makes the difference between being seen, and being noticed.
Cue the public relations practitioner who knows how to turn the client into a brand. The ‘new breed’ public relations official knows that people are inundated with information – and that, without a unique voice, his or her client will be white noise.
This unique voice sure isn’t another set-format press release. A brand is created slowly, with constant (authentic) engagement with the public on all media platforms. A brand talks to consumers in real time, a brand engages in a way that resonates with its image. One brand needs a campaign; another needs a single tweet. Those who manage brands know that what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for Google.
We’ve learnt to accept that digital exists alongside traditional media, but the truth is that the roles have merged. Instead of weighing the one up against the other, we should be looking at the brand in its totality. Nothing happens in isolation anymore.
Therefore: chuck the prescription PR and begin your email with “saw your tweet this morning…” I’m not saying your ‘brand’ will end up on the front page – but I guarantee your release won’t end up in the recycle bin.
Jeanri-Tine van Zyl is an account manager at marcusbrewster.
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