To PR or not PR?

There is a move afoot, no, actually a tidal wave of change related to the term “public relations.” When we created Finley + Bailey, the conversation centered on what we would do and why we would do it and what we would call ourselves.

Over several discussions, we looked at various funky as well as high-minded names before deciding to focus on who we are – Finley and Bailey – and chose to leverage our reputations in our immediate market in hopes it would help us build a robust business. We didn’t waste any time before tagging the firm as a “strategic communications” organization, not public relations, not marketing, not anything that would pigeonhole our skills and capabilities to prospects and fellow communications brethren.

When we sat down to define our services offerings, I said, “Public Relations.” Rebecca countered, “Nobody uses that term anymore.” Me: “Oh. Well, I still do.” She: “People (meaning prospective clients and colleagues) think you’re talking about media relations and publicity.”

Oh, again. Welcome to 2020. Time to get with the program.

But I still consider myself a practitioner of public relations – because I view all of today’s strategic communications a subset of public relations, and I remain a member of the Public Relations Society of America.

Are we just mincing words here? Not really, or maybe.

I posed the question to a group of professionals across the country; solo practitioners, firm owners, academics. It made for a fascinating e-dialogue.

“We tend not to say PR firm because prospects and clients won’t think of us as being able to provide a broad array of services.” “I let go of being stubborn about the term. It’s about what we do, how we do it and what it accomplishes – call it what you want.”

“Digital and social media have changed the game for most if not all communications disciplines (PR, advertising, marketing, journalism, etc.) and there’s been a convergence of functions where all of us need to know elements of communications that were not required before technologies disrupted the way we all must operate.”

“Integrated marketing communications usurped public relations in an effort to make it streamlined for management and companies to understand.”

I prefer the term integrated “communications marketing,” first coined by Richard Edelman in a 2014 speech, where he called on communicators to “be brave enough to make organizational and cultural changes.”

This is where I am today, a believer in communications marketing and the key actions that drive its success: Embrace, Advocate, Enable, Partner, Offer, Participate, Prove.

It’s about flipping the PR world and expanding it to embrace innovation and advocate for changes in strategy and take a “values-based” approach to (here’s the PR part) change behavior. All those other key actions roll up in a redefined communications discipline that – in the end – deliver the results we all seek in our profession; a connection to the client’s business goals and growing their reputation.

Now, I am changing my behavior. I’ll call myself a strategic communications marketing professional and be proud of it.