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Opinion: Public relations undergoing monumental shift

by Stephen Murdoch, Vice President, PR, Enterprise Canada

The practice of public relations is undergoing a monumental shift. The ever-evolving digital world is shifting how we communicate. For many PR firms, keeping up with these changes can be a daunting task.

However, one thing in the PR industry remains the same. Simply put, it is about relationships.

From coast to coast, a large number of PR agencies believe all they need to do is send out press releases or create social media content for their clients. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, a press release can be an integral part of any good public relations campaign. And yes, creating good social media content helps, too. However, creating lasting relationships with traditional media outlets and bloggers will take your media and public relations efforts to the next level.

Strong relationships have always been at the heart of good public relations. Today, with newsrooms shrinking, relationships are of the utmost importance in telling your story.

All too often I hear senior marketing folks - from blue chip companies, to start up companies - questioning the value of working with traditional media. For many, simply issuing a media release and creating canned social media content is enough. Why? Because that is the flawed advice they are getting from their PR firm.

The truth is this - companies that receive the most ink are those that work with PR firms who have built long-standing relationships with media.

So, when it comes time to hire your next PR firm, keep the following in mind:

1) If you're a company that wants to create a buzz in the food industry, ask your PR firm who are the top food writers and bloggers in Canada. If they can't answer, chances are you're working with the wrong PR firm.

2) Does your PR firm simply upload a release onto a news wire and wait to hear from the media? If so, you might want to reevaluate your relationship with them. The right PR firm works their contacts and finds the right mediums and time to share their client's news.

3) Is your PR firm reaching the audiences that matter? Whether it's traditional or digital media outlets, your PR firm needs to understand your demographics and how best to reach your audience. The splatter approach to securing media coverage does little to build a company's brand in the long run and, most importantly, position you as an expert in your field with the media.

4) Are you working with the PR firm's top talent? If not, why? When PR firms pitch for new business, they always bring in their best people. Make sure they remain on your team when the works starts and you don't fall victim to bait-and-switch tactics with less-experienced staff who may not have built the relationships needed to earn you media coverage.

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