Judy Gombita, PR Conversations: It’s doubtful the typical client feels a sense of priority about the need for innovative PR services
- 09 Iunie 2016 |
- Dana Oancea
I’m honored to discuss today with Judy Gombita, the Canadian contributor and co-content editor to the global, collaborative blog PR Conversations. Judy is a Toronto-based public relations, communication management and social media strategist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning non-profit sectors. Judy shared with us her perspective on innovation in PR.
Judy, what is your definition of innovation in PR?
As the dictionary definition of innovation was somewhat lacking, I chose to look up synonyms for the word. What came up was "novelty, modernism, modernization, improvement, advance and originality." I think conventional wisdom would define innovation in public relations in regards to technological improvements and a plethora of platforms (faster, more options, 24/7 access and global reach) and areas of practice such as content marketing and community building, but I think those relate primarily to tools and functional or tactical practice, rather than true inventiveness or creativity.
If pressed, I’d probably say the study of neuroscience (the reasons why people think, say and do things, based on their brains’ neurological activities) is the most innovative—and needing requisite skills. See this March 2011 post by Toni Muzi Falconi (on PR Conversations), Improving stakeholder relationships through nets, neuros and algorithms.
As well, the ability to collect, monitor and analyze data in terms of what relationships are most worthy of pursuing, regarding feasibility and influence. These two areas allow for the most-innovative "PR" possibilities today, with the overarching definition of organizational reputation and value, and relationship building with a variety of stakeholders.
But those same two areas can have slightly nefarious undertones. Think of elected leaders and politicians strategizing on how to best appeal to (and cultivate) voters, who may be misled as to that party’s and politicians’ planned agency if elected to office.
How do you assess the capacity of the industry to come up with fundamental innovative approaches?
Confusing the tools and platforms available, and tactics and current trends—particularly when used for short-term ”campaigns”—with the raison d’être of the public relations function (particularly as a management discipline).
Some industries and areas really don’t need innovation to prove value, although I appreciate that when agencies sell communication as a commodity, they want to position themselves as being "innovative" to retain clients and grow the business.
What are the common misunderstandings when we speak about innovation in PR?
Is the PR industry being held back regarding innovation or is it simply that practitioners are less prone to use the hyperbolic language of our marketing colleagues and suffer less from FOMO (fear of missing out)?
If you concur with your last interview subject, Professor James Grunig, about relationships being at the heart of public relations, just how "innovative" does one need to be at building relations with organizations and individuals, that is, stakeholder publics?
Which are the key factors that are holding back innovation in our industry?
Public relations suffering from all kinds of stereotypes (primarily being about media relations and spin come to mind), as well as being under constant attack from marketers wanting to subsume and control things (including internal communications, strictly for marketing purposes) are the key factors in holding us back. Many practitioners lack clarity in understanding and focus. How on earth can we be innovative, being boxed into such cages and being considered simply as being a part of the marketing mix?
Innovation requires time and reflexivity, quite a contrast to the hourly pricing and fee model that defines the actual business model. Do you see a way out of this contradiction?
The hourly pricing and fee model is definitely an agency/consultancy concept. It’s working for most of the large agencies—notably Edeleman—so I really don’t anticipate any innovative changes to this regard. More likely simplistic device and channel tactics, particularly in regards to social media campaigns and increasingly working with "influencers" for marketing purposes will prevail, and be trumpeted as being "on fleek" and innovative.
Are the clients feeling a sense of priority or urgency about the need for innovative PR services?
It’s doubtful the typical client feels a sense of priority or urgency about the need for innovative PR services, whatever those may be. Agencies and consultants will try to sell services for content marketing, social media campaigns, building brand community and working with influencers, but sadly, too many CEOs and others in the C-suite are still looking for big scores in mainstream media, which they expect to help sell their widget or software program.
It would be innovative on their part if they understood the value of long-term relationships.
What might be the next big thing affecting the PR industry in the near future?
The two things I mentioned at the beginning, neuroscience and data analysis, related to ethical relationship building (not simply algorithms), could be the next big innovative things in PR. Unfortunately, most practitioners won’t have the appreciation and patience or skills and training, to undertake these areas of study and practice, particularly in an agency setting.
What could be truly innovative is in-house departments or teams specializing in these specific areas, similar to HR or IT.
Judy Gombita is a Toronto-based hybrid public relations, communication management and social media strategist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning non-profit sectors.
She is an original principal (since 2007), Canadian contributor and co-content editor to the global, collaborative blog, PRConversations, and also curates PRC’s Twitter account, G+ and LinkedIn pages.
Judy Gombita wrote a monthly column on social PR on the group blog Maximize Social Business site for its first two years of existence, and she is an editorial advisory board member (and contributor) to The Journal of Professional Communication (JPC).
Interview by Dana Oancea. Copyright PR Romania.