PR needs a seat at the table—but it won’t happen so long as the C-suite views PR as a luxury and not a necessity. This idea has been a prominent theme over the past thirteen months of PR Profiles, and it came up once again in Episode 14 with guest Lindsey Groepper, President of award-winning agency, BLASTmedia.
“We have these conversations a lot,” says Lindsey. BLASTmedia’s client contacts are often CMOs, SVPs, department heads and directors of marketing, comms, and PR. “They understand the power of brand and they are looking to us to show the value when they go into their board meetings.” Even though their client contacts are “fighting the good fight,” Lindsey says that positioning PR as essential requires more than showing the C-suite press clippings.
“Where we find the path of least resistance to showing value is ensuring that at the beginning of any relationship, we are connecting our activities to that organization’s larger business goals,” says Lindsey. “When you ingrain yourself in the business, it’s a lot harder to cut that spend because, as a CMO, you can say, ‘We could cut our PR spend, but that means we’re not going to reach these three objectives that PR helps us meet.’”
What seems a straightforward practice is unfortunately not as widespread as it should be. As a result, many PR, comms, and marketing professionals felt the fall of the axe when organizations were quick to cut their communications budgets in a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic. Which Lindsey says—and we believe all PR pros would agree—was not the right move.
Despite this initial reaction, Lindsey noted an interesting change at the end of April 2020. “The physical world shut down—no more customer summits, no more trade shows, no more steak and handshake dinners for your large customers,” says Lindsey. “So, all of a sudden, companies were looking only at their digital presence, at their perception online, and some of them didn’t like what they saw.” Not long after, “we just as quickly saw the hockey stick of growth investments into brand.”
For a niche agency like BLASTmedia who exclusively represents B2B software as a service companies, most of their clients are “in a category race.” When the technology is roughly the same, what makes one email marketing suite rise above the rest? It all comes back to brand. “Perception is the biggest equalizer that you have from a marketing standpoint,” says Lindsey. With another potential downturn looming, Lindsey says, “When your competition pulls back, that presents a huge opportunity to strengthen your position in the market, with PR being one of the most cost-effective ways to do so.”
Even as PR shifts to align itself better with organizational goals, Lindsey notes that there’s still work to be done on PR’s own perception problem, which she says is “created by agencies who still rely on this traditional press release-driven strategy.” From pitching podcasts to uncovering data that lives within your client organizations, Lindsey believes that applying more modern tactics is the solution. “What we need to do as agencies is understand that there are so many ways to create a consistent narrative in the press that are completely independent of press releases. We can all do better.”