Ask three people what it is they think public relations professionals actually do and you might get some pretty amazing (and problematic) answers. For a lot of business leaders, the perception of public relations is nothing more than spin and “creative messaging” (read: lying).
Public relations and marketing work together to enhance a client’s brand. Where marketing is singularly focused on selling a product or service, public relations is the business of building relationships with key audiences. By connecting brands with their target audiences, PR professionals do a whole lot more than pitch media and set up news conferences.
Our clients are always interested in learning how public relations works in support of marketing. So, we recently sat down for a Q&A with public relations director Natonia Samchuck to get to know her perspectives on public relations, what it is (and what it isn’t) and how she sees the role of the industry changing over the next five years.
Q: What do you do at GRIT Marketing Group?
Natonia: I am the public relations director at GRIT. I’m responsible for planning and executing public relations strategies and tactics for our clients. On a daily basis, you can find me developing strategic public relations plans, executing proactive media pitching, providing media training sessions, coordinating news conferences, writing materials such as news releases, or even handling crisis communications.
Q: What is your favorite part of working at GRIT?
Natonia: The team at GRIT is unparalleled. I have the privilege of working with a team of outstanding, authentic professionals who are dedicated to getting the best results for our clients. It’s amazing to work surrounded by people who want to see you be successful both in your career and your personal life.
That’s really rare and special.
Q: How do you see public relations functions and tactics changing over the next five years?
Natonia: I think we are going to see more continued overlap and integration between PR efforts and marketing.
As budgets continue to get tighter, PR will be under even more pressure to show a return on investment and what better way to do that than by demonstrating how PR supports the overall marketing goals of a brand?
PR will become especially helpful as we see the trend increase of consumers wanting more authentic connections with the brands they use. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, in the U.S. only 48 percent of survey respondents said they trust businesses – that’s down from 58 percent in 2017. Public relations experts may be used to develop authentic ambassadors for brands both internally and externally. PR experts may also be used as a powerful guidepost in protecting a brand’s key messages, so they are working together across all communications channels for a more authentic interaction with customers – which helps to build trust. Consumers want to know the story behind the brands they use, and PR can help discover and tell those stories.
Social media will continue to be a strong influencer on brand perceptions and an area where PR can have a big influence strategically and tactically. Also, as much as I believe that writing is a key aspect of PR, visuals will become more important, especially on social media. PR professionals will continue to be challenged to not only tell their stories but also show their stories through use of infographics and video.
Q: Is it possible to measure PR?
Natonia: Although PR is difficult to measure, it is not impossible. At GRIT we calculate media value of the earned media coverage achieved. Some PR firms will add a “multiplier” to the media value of PR coverage. The justification is that PR has an added third-party credibility as opposed to advertising, but the problem is there is no industry standard multiplier or industry-wide agreement on whether a multiplier should even be used.
At GRIT, we explain the benefit of the third-party credibility to our clients but, when reporting, we calculate direct add value. When it comes down to it, the results of PR efforts should be evaluated multiple ways including the number of impressions received, estimated add value, the sentiment of the coverage earned (positive vs negative), and most importantly, how PR is supporting the overall business goals and objectives.
Marketing is like a bike. PR is only one part of the bike and it should be integrated into all of the other channels of your marketing efforts. When all of the pieces of the bike work together, your marketing is propelled, and you move forward quicker – your work is more powerful.
Q: When you look at the PR industry, what’s the one thing you’d like to change?
Natonia: Fortunately, throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to build strong relationships with many outstanding reporters who are incredible professionals. I understand their role and they understand mine. If they come to me on a deadline, I’ll find them a source. Even if the expert they need isn’t a client of mine, I’ll use it as an opportunity to start a conversation with a potential new client and get the reporter the source they need. Remember, relationships matter and next time, that same reporter may come back to me when they DO need a source that happens to be my client. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
With that in mind, throughout my career, I have encountered some reporters who are skeptical when we first begin working together because they have a preconceived notion of the PR industry. Sometimes when I’m building new relationships with reporters, there is a bit of time where I’m blatantly aware that I have to prove myself. In that case, I’ve found transparency, responsiveness and accuracy are the keys to changing misperceptions.
I guess you could say the one thing I would change is to remove that skepticism between reporters and PR professionals in general – although skepticism is also what challenges PR professionals to continuously improve for their clients, media contacts and most importantly for themselves. It pushes everyone to be better.
I believe in being pleasantly persistent so I’m not afraid of a little bit of healthy skepticism. If I gave up every time someone told me “no,” I would have given up on this profession a long time ago.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception people have about public relations?
Natonia: Many clients think public relations only involves media relations; however, public relations professionals are trained to help companies reach various target audiences with key messages – the media is only one of the key audiences! Many times, this means before we talk about sharing your story externally with the media, I’m assisting in the development of critical key messages to be shared with your internal staff, board members, volunteers, donors, etc.
Q: What’s the biggest PR win you ever scored for a client?
Natonia: I was working with a local owner/operator of a fast food restaurant that was a part of a national chain. The staff was celebrating a customer’s 100th birthday with a surprise birthday party. We worked behind the scenes to invite local media to the event. The local coverage really made an impact on social media and quickly went viral. Within 24 hours the story was being picked up by outlets such as ENews the New York Post, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, Delish and more, and was even shared by Good Morning America. It was a great example of how a touching story has the ability to spread like wildfire!
Ready to chat with the experts? Contact us to find out how the GRIT team can earn positive news coverage for you brand.
Want to read more? Click here to read about the Top 9 Reasons your Company News isn’t Being Covered by the Media.