Advancing the Profession and the Professional

Get Your PR Team Ready for the Future

By PRSA-SV President David McCulloch, PRSA-Silicon Valley President and Cisco Director of Corporate Communications

prsasv_audience_feb2013According to the panel of PR industry leaders at PRSA Silicon Valley’s annual Future of PR event, to be successful in the future, PR professionals must:

  • Think about how to partner with ad agencies instead of fighting over budget
  • Stop measuring clips and start analyzing impact
  • Know the boardroom as well as you know your media list
  • Don’t just seek to educate and persuade your influencers, entertain them too.

That’s the advice from veteran start-up launcher and Atomic PR CEO Andy Getsey, Dell VP of Communications Kelly McGinnis, Facebook Director of Technology Communications David Swain and University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism Associate Professor Burghardt Tenderich. The panel was moderated by PRWeek Editor-in-Chief Steve Barrett and the event brought together 90 leaders of Silicon Valley’s corporate, agency and start-up PR teams who responded to our poll about their priorities:

  • 57% said improving measurement to demonstrate the effectiveness of communications was a top priority
  • 43% said that developing content creation skills was of highest importance
  • 43% said the pursuit, development and retention of talent was their top priority
  • 36% said improving employee engagement and commitment were paramount
  • 29% stated that better understanding influence in today’s rapidly evolving communications environment was a key consideration
  • 29% said video skills and visual storytelling were high on their list of focus areas
  • 29% said developing the capability to respond to rapid information flows was most important

During the lively panel discussion, Swain added that “focus” and “international expansion” are top priorities for his Facebook team, along with developing a no-fuss, fast-paced approach to reviewing program success and adjusting strategy. 

“Sometimes the goal for us is to drive very little coverage and we don’t need to conduct exhaustive research to know whether we’ve been successful,” he said, adding that PR life at Facebook can be quite different than at other companies seeking the limelight.

Start with Measurement

Getsey passionately addressed the audience’s top priority. “Our job is to change people’s minds,” he urged, noting that too many PR teams still use measurement to justify budgets rather than to demonstrate impact. “Our obsession with measuring and listening has to evolve into a focus on analyzing programs and outcomes so that we can adapt and improve strategy. We have to understand shareholder goals, drive sales, influence web traffic, and solve issues,” he said.

Contribute to the Conversation

The panelists all agreed we must create effective content if we’re going to be successful in PR, but cautioned not to view corporate content as a replacement for quality journalism or analysis.

“We’re not trying to disintermediate the media with our brand journalism efforts, said McGinnis. “We’re trying to add a fresh perspective to ongoing conversations. For us, success is having our content re-published elsewhere, because someone recognizes we have something valuable to contribute to a discussion.”

Training PR Students

Weighing in on how the changing demands of corporate and agency PR teams are leading the Annenberg School for Journalism and Communications to think differently about how to train students for a future in PR, Tenderich explained that his school is working hard to address two issues.

 “An understanding of what happens in the boardroom is still a common PR shortcoming. On the other hand, USC is wholeheartedly embracing new media alongside teaching foundational skills. We are entirely refocusing our curriculum around content creation,” he said.

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