Where Does Public Relations Fit in the Marketing Technology Landscape?

Public relations and marketing are two sides of the same coin. Accordingly, these areas have had a little bit of sibling rivalry for a long time. One of the largest divides between these two areas is the fact that PR is typically reactive whereas marketing is proactive. In other words, press releases and other PR materials are typically released after a notable event, such as a significant increase in revenue. On the other hand, marketing is responsible for helping to make those efforts happen. So, PR supports marketing and marketing supports sales.

Traditionally, the two are defined as such – PR is the practice of getting a “person, company, or other organization mentioned in the media, namely print, radio, and television”, while “Marketing is the process of getting a product or service from a company to its end customers, from product development through the final sale and post-purchase support”. (Actionable Marketing Guide)

According to this definition, then, the traditional model of marketing is to sell products while the traditional model of PR is to build relationships and brand recognition.

When you think about the goals of modern marketing tactics and philosophies—such as content marketing, nurture marketing, relationship marketing, engagement marketing, and so on—it’s easy to see that marketing is placing just as much, if not more, more emphasis on relationship building and brand awareness than it is on selling products. While sales and revenue are typically still the ultimate goals of a marketing team, the typical definitions of and divisions between PR and marketing don’t hold much water anymore.

Whether you want to believe that PR and marketing are merging or that PR has simply been folded into marketing—and maybe always truly has been—it is clearer than ever that PR is both complementary to marketing while also maintaining its own important yet distinctive function. For this reason, PR deserves the same attention when it comes to marketing technologies. Yet, we don’t hear much about public relations and marketing technology.

The Need for Public Relations Technology

Due to its proximity to marketing, PR faces many of the same challenges and opportunities. For example, Hubspot considers these the top ‘must know’ statistics for PR professionals:

  • The average American attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds.
  • Every two days we produce as much data as was generated in all of human existence leading up to 2003.
  • More than 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices.
  • B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms.
  • Millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites.

So, essentially, PR pros are facing the double-edged sword of dealing with information overload while also fielding demands for new content. They’re also faced with finding new, creative ways to appeal to mobile users. Sound familiar?

Either way, it’s safe to say that the days of sending out a press release, garnering significant attention, and then patting themselves on the back are over for PR specialists.

The Martec Explosion – PR is Next

As I’ve discussed before, martec is exploding. The landscape has grown 2,233% from 2011 to 2016, according to researching from Chief Martec. This growth has been influential in many areas of marketing—including, Sales Automation Enablement & Intelligence, Social Media Marketing & Monitoring, Display & Programmatic Advertising, Marketing Automation & Campaign/Lead Management, and Content Marketing.

Many, including Mashable, are predicting that PR technology will be the next significant area of growth in terms of marketing technology. When thinking about the opportunities for PR marketing technology, it’s important to consider how PR contributes to marketing. While we know that it is responsible for raising brand awareness and building relationships and trust, PR can also lend itself to higher organic search rankings, increased social performance, and higher levels of inbound web traffic, to name a few. It can be expected that PR marketing technologies will help to capitalize on and measure the performance of these PR advantages.

Bringing PR to the Executive Table

While PR may be known for the advantages stated above, what’s typically missing is the follow-up and full funnel measurement that comes afterward. It’s all too common for brands to put time, effort, and money into a press release or other PR effort and then not make lucrative use of the attention and engagement that it brings to an organization. This is especially common if PR strategy isn’t integrated with digital strategy, further indicating the importance of technology in a holistic PR and marketing relationship.

Just as other brand awareness and relationship building tactics, such as content marketing and social media, have become more quantifiable, so too must PR start to become easily measurable. This shift is essential for keeping PR valid in times where whatever can be proven to have a positive ROI is automatically considered more valuable.

Though it is beginning to be impacted by developing technologies, the PR tech industry is still in its formational stages. It can be expected that the development of PR marketing technology will follow a similar trajectory to the amplification abilities we now see in social media and the transformation of search engines to profitable ad centers.

Significant Silicon Valley Investments

Marketers aren’t the only ones who are sensing a groundswell of PR technology opportunities. According to Mashable, Mohr Davidow Ventures in Silicon Valley has been investing significantly in PR technology developments, while PR technology solutions that have been innovated in the past few years—such as Optimizely, Contently, and OneSpot—have all found themselves with more than enough funding thanks to interested investors.

Ultimately, those making waves in the PR tech space are helping to round out the marketing technology landscape and provide marketers with a full range of solutions to get the most of our their efforts and then to prove what exactly they gained from these efforts.

What Does this Mean for Marketers?

The addition of PR technology to any marketing technology stack will allow PR and digital marketing to align strategies, work in tandem, and, ultimately, prove their worth. PR’s vital role in all marketing efforts has long been assumed, now it will be indisputable. Additionally, technology in areas such as distribution and engagement will bring PR abilities to the next level.

With PR showing the opportunity to provide the same sort of clear-cut ROI and high-velocity impact as efforts such as paid advertising, marketers will see PR shift from a cost center to profit center. In fact, this shift is the very goal of PR technology investors and innovators. Along the same lines as social media marketing and content marketing, areas of opportunity are going to grow significantly as technology solutions expand.

So, what does this mean for marketers and PR professionals? There will be more ways to do your job better and more opportunities to make you look good doing it. Stay tuned.


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Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Blurred Lines: The De-Silo-Ing of Marketing to discover why breaking down organizational silos is key to staying agile and ahead of your competition.

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