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Without A Digital Strategy, You’re Limiting PR’s Impact

In one of my past lives, about 17 years ago, I steered the local public relations/communications division of a Fortune 100 company with a large regional office in Detroit.  We had a staff of 25 people, mostly public relations practitioners, newsletter writers, graphic designers and project managers. The company also had a robust marketing and sales division.

PR meeting digital

But if you happened to cross my path today and told me you were once part of that sales or marketing division, the chances of me knowing you would be slim and none. Why? We never talked to them, worked with them or collaborated with them. Marketing had its own strategy, sales had its own strategy and the public relations team had its own strategy.   

If only someone had initiated an introduction that simply went like this: “Public Relations, meet Marketing; Marketing, meet Public Relations. We’d like you to work together.” As absurd as that sounds, I still constantly run into companies and meet agencies engaging strategies where one is used but not the other.

Now jump to the digital world.  There is no possible way a communications or marketing team/agency can be successful today without engaging the “digital folks” – yet some don’t. Similarly, there’s a lot of marketing and digital media folks who know nothing about public relations – and should. 

How is this even possible?

Why Can’t We all Work Together?

Simply put – company continuums should be laid out this way:

Sales and Business Development needs to be working with a marketing/digital strategy platform that engages communications and public relations.

If you can’t find a direct line of communication between these three elements, everyone is wasting their time. There’s plenty of sales folks who see the marketing department as the “the people who make the brochures and buy ads” and there’s plenty of marketing and digital departments who see the communications team as the group that comes up with newspaper clips with no measurable ROI.  What the marketing team should be looking for the PR group to do is help them brand their company and use the successes as another tool to market the company to prospective clients. There’s plenty of PR practitioners who try and do their job without ever aligning their pitches to the marketing or bu

PR and digital team

siness development plan. Yep – one big giant mess of silos.

No marketing or PR agency should EVER engage a company without first understanding the needs of the sales or business development efforts.  And leadership should be telling the sales people they NEED the help of the marketing and PR team. If these units (sales, marketing, PR) are not aligned and supporting each other, you’re wasting everyone’s time (and money).

Why PR Teams Need a Digital Strategy

First and foremost, PR professionals are more than aware that the available pools of media targets have dried up.  City newspapers have gone away, while regional and local papers have merged, been bought up and repositioned as either advertising rags or just a location for syndicated content. Radio stations have all but scuttled their local news departments.

But smart communications pros have adapted by bringing in a digital strategy that honestly gets more views than a newspaper could ever give them. Demographically directed pitches through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, podcasts and native advertising has raised the profile of story pitches beyond anything traditional media can offer.  Stories now appear in mobile feeds online and on your phone.

Why PR Teams Need to Focus on Aligned Key Messaging

More than ever, businesses have no desire to engage in PR exercises if the story can’t be found or searched.  PR pros who work with their digital departments to develop searchable key words and messaging BEFORE the release or story is written, will insure that the story will actually be found.  And that means, yes – your “inverted pyramid” of journalistic story-telling better include terms that will help a company’s SEO efforts, or it’s a royal waste of effort and money.


Mark Gilman is president of PitchNoise, a division of Detroit-based Inbound Lead Solutions. With 20+ years experience in public relations, branding, and marketing, he specializes in providing visibility, strategy and market differentiation for emerging and mid-size privately held businesses and non-profits as well as individuals.


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