Gini Dietrich

PR Earned its Place Long Before 2016

By: Gini Dietrich | January 27, 2016 | 

PR Earned its Place Long Before 2016By Gini Dietrich

It must be the week to pick on AdAge…or at least on their contributors.

(I’ll have to find something I don’t agree with in there to write about tomorrow!)

A couple of weeks ago, Bob Reed posted How Public Relations is Earning its Place in 2016 in the Counselors Academy Facebook group…and I went on a rant.

Not because AdAge finally recognizes that we have earned a spot at the strategic table, but because the reason they say we finally have has been around since, oh, at least 2008.

I do love this sentence, though…I may pin it to my wall so I can see it every day:

The emergence of skippable, blockable, opt-out-able advertising, not to mention ever-more integrated campaigns, means PR can suddenly demand more than a supporting role—and maybe even take center stage.

Yes, let’s take center stage, but let’s make sure it’s for the right reasons.

PR Includes Digital Media and Strategic Partnerships? Oh My!

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas the first week of January (I’ll never understand why they have such a huge show the week after the holidays, which requires some to travel during their holiday break), Coldwell Banker used its PR team (both internal and external) to talk about “how smart home tech will affect the selling and buying of residential real estate.”

To do that?

They moved beyond traditional PR to include digital media and strategic partnerships.

For real. In 2016. How was this not part of their plans in 2008? Or, I’ll even give them 2010. But 2016? Come on! The fact that PR is just now leading this and that it’s news is a real problem.

I’ll give them 2010 and the fact that it’s hard for large companies to change. It’s easy for me to sit here and say this when my Chicago PR agency doesn’t have thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. It’s easy for us to change.

I can also sit here and say that every client gets it and hires a PR firm to take center stage and to work with their other agencies cohesively…but that’s just not true.

There still is a huge turf war between agencies.

A client wonders if PR should own digital or if they should hire a digital marketing agency or if advertising owns digital? And, if we want PR to be at the center of it, how do they work with our digital marketing and ad agencies?

It’s not easy to manage all of that.

PR Earned its Place Long Before Now

But, this is 2016, people. PR has not been an “add-on” for years now. If we’ve not been at center stage for the past six or seven years, we certainly have been a star performer.

When we use the PESO model to integrate our communications efforts, we build authority, thought leadership, Google rankings, awareness…and, most importantly, sales that we can track directly back to our efforts.

Let’s say that owned media, or content, is at the center of our strategic plan. We create visual-, audio-, and text-based content that sits on our website or blog.

We use shared media to promote it and to bring fans and followers back to our website or blog.

We use earned media to work with journalists and bloggers to produce content for them…that links back to our owned media.

And we use paid media to amplify our efforts through sponsored content, social media advertising, and even retargeting.

At the center of all of that is where PR leads…and has always led. It’s in building trust, in building relationships, and in building authenticity. Those three things are why people buy.

People buy from people (unless you’re a commodity and we buy while standing in line at the grocery store because the packaging caught our eye) and the only way to do that is to build trust.

The only way to build trust is through PR.

So goodie for some of the large companies for transforming from traditional PR to include digital media and strategic partnerships. Goodie for them for recognizing that PR should be part of the strategic decisions. Goodie for them for putting PR at center stage.

But we’ve always been there; we’re just now getting better at proving it.

image credit: shutterstock

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • You are preaching to the choir here Gini. I’ve thinking a lot about this recently and am working on something big. Watch this space.

    • This space as in the comments here?! Are you announcing something big in the comments on Spin Sucks? No! You’re writing a guest post for us? No! You’re going to do a course with me? Tell me! Tell me!

      • Hey I did write a guest post for you (it’s in the queue). But that’s not what I meant. I meant watch ‘my’ space (not MySpace). I’m writing something bigger than a blog post. Longer. But not a book. I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

  • Remi

    *Applause”* Yes! Well said, Gini! (and forcefully, too.)

  • Hanna Knowles

    Love this! Even though I just entered the PR world two years ago, I am happy to be here and help shape relationships built upon sound reasoning. One of my first PR professors talked about the importance of making sure you have a place at the decision making table. I think this goes right along with what you are saying. If we don’t have a place at the table, we won’t be seen as a critical piece of the puzzle or be able to prevent less than desirable business decisions.

    • Your PR professor was right. If people are making decisions without PR in the room, a lot will go wrong. I was just having a conversation with a friend about executives who get upset when they’re not included in a story…and how it always ends up being the fault of PR. It couldn’t possibly be that the product stinks or the executive didn’t get back to the reporter or that it just wasn’t a fit. Nope. It’s all because PR stinks.

      • If you had spun it well enough, they’d be in that story. Sheesh. It’s like you don’t even know PR. 😉

        • I’m going to hurt you!

          • Well someone seems a little sensitive about the fact they didn’t get a blizzard.

            Mmm… Blizzards.

  • Anneliz Hannan

    I’m not going to bring out my high horse and ride my feminist saddle today as her bones are too chilled with such statements but it does make me wonder if I was just a pretty face at the table for two decades! Coffee anyone?;)

  • Amen Gini!

    Bill Smith

  • Well said, Gini! PR has long had a seat at the proverbial table. PESOs for all!


  • howiegoldfarb

    I kind of hate these discussions because they are kind of silly like ‘What does the agency of the future look like’. Or the lifetime value of a facebook fan.

    There used to be silos. Direct Sales. Advertising. PR. Marketing.

    Now in my view it has become Direct Sales and Marketing with Advertising, PR, and Marketing under one bucket. The reason is because PR used to be corp comm. Press conferences and releases. Media pitch campaigns. Crisis comm.

    Then PR started wanting to play in the other sandboxes…..

  • Chaaaaaarge! You go get ’em!

    So, is this something you really only see with larger corporations? Strikes me as one of those “it’s really hard to turn a cruise ship on a dime” situations. Well, that and the “claiming” of territory between departments has to be, uh, “fun” within a large company. Heck, it’s interesting even in small companies…

    Also, CES is the first week of January, I know you’re excited for Birthday Month, but don’t get too far ahead of yourself.

    • I’m so confused! Did I not say January?

      • Travis Peterson


        • Maybe I need to break my habit of writing at 5 a.m.

          • I kept checking it, thinking I was reading it wrong, but nope, you’re writing from the future. 😊

  • samemac

    Can I get an amen?

    “At the center of all of that is where PR leads…and has always led. It’s in building trust, in building relationships, and in building authenticity. Those three things are why people buy.”

    Awareness -> Interest -> Evaluation -> Trial -> Adoption.

    The linking arrow in that process is the trust factor. Which won’t be present without a stable relationship built on real humans, feelings and thoughts. And if there isn’t trust, there’s no linking arrow – and then you have a broken string of words that don’t mean anything to anyone.

    I’m convinced getting over egos and setting aside agendas is the only way for a lot of companies to actually adopt this way of thinking – but then again, what do I know?

    • I’ve been thinking a lot about earned media, not in the traditional sense, but in the peer-to-peer sense. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows trust in media is on a severe decline, but that friend trust (even if they’re perceived friends online) is way up. This all is going to shift sooner, rather than later, and PR is already at the center of that.

      As for getting over egos and setting aside agendas, I agree. I also think it has a lot to do with budgets and P&Ls. I had a rather shocking conversation with a friend last week about doing some paid media for some of their owned content. She said, “Oh, I don’t think I can do that. Marketing owns that budget and they won’t boost our content.”

      WHAT?!!? I am at a loss.

  • Travis Peterson

    I’m pinning up the entire last section of this post to MY wall. Recipe for PR greatness.

    • Ha! You’re just being nice so you can win the Five Second Rule game.

      • Travis Peterson

        Hmmm….didn’t think I needed to be nice to win?

        Figured I’d just be myself and that would be clearly awesome enough to win.

        /drops mic/

  • Read that piece, thought much the same – it’s not PR it’s the org that always needed PR at the table, finally realizes it. For those of us doing integrated PR beyond publicity and sales, public relations has always been about relationships, about developing culture and reputation that strategically position an organization in ways that drive business goals.

    As to the ‘why people buy’ I think it’s a bit more simple, and complicated. What separates money from my wallet is 2 things: needs and wants. We need shelter, clothes, food. Simple. We want what we consider nicer, prettier, tastier, healthier, etc. I need dinner, too lazy to cook so I go to the place that might not be as nice and friendly, but they’re closer and save me time. That’s where it gets tricky, where it gets interesting – you got it right, it’s the WHY of those decisions. Which is how PR and business communications play in. How does the business represents itself in addressing my needs and wants? So they make better products, have a more convenient locations, sell their wares at prices I’ll pay, offer a better experience, earn a more favorable reputation which attracts better talent, etc. FWIW.

  • Yes, yes, yes.

    That is all.


  • YUP. Agree with all of this.

    Though let’s applaud the latecomers, too. The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of organizations, agencies and companies that have yet to get as far as Coldwell Banker just did. We just don’t notice them anymore because they’re getting relegated to the long, sad tail of easily ignored (and low ROI) tactics.

    It’s up to us to frame PR in a way that embraces the PESO model and demonstrates results. If not us, someone else will frame it for us. And we won’t like it.