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PR Needs to Learn to Love Numbers. An interview with Steve Barrett, Editor-in-Chief PR Week

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Steve Barett

Where is PR standing in Cannes Lions competition?

This is traditionally an advertising event. It was formerly named International Advertising Festival. It has become International Festival of Creativity to reflect the fact that it is much more than advertising with all discipline emerging. I think PR is doing better every year. PR community has done this better than last year and is a matter of learning how to enter; ad agencies are better in doing this. I was pleased with the results and we have a fantastic grand prix winner #likeagirl, created by a PR agency. Campaigns are no longer about selling more goods but more about dealing with social issues, making the world a better place. This is another theme I have seen this week. PR has won some gold, and many more silver and bronzes. PR is also achieving in other categories. This is a new development. PR agencies are recognized in mobile, in the Glass Lion category, in Media, in Promo and activation. It is still a long way to go, advertising still getting a lot of the credit. PR agencies need to do better, and enter more of their best works.

Do you see a fight over content among agencies? Who does it and who has the right to do it?

I don’t see a fight. The client does not care who comes with the big idea, he cares about the effectiveness of the idea. What I see everything converging. PR is well placed to tell digitally stories. It is about the perfect mix of PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned). The balance of these four is changing. Paid was the most important, now more and more “earned” which is PR, “shared” which is social media and “owned” which is brand own content…What is the point of fighting? PR is in a great place, PR agencies need to come with great ideas for their clients and learn to cross all channels, learn to master the PESO mix.  
We still have PR agencies stubborn to do only media relations. We still have agencies without social media competencies.  

This is interesting. For example this year there were no winners in the “Media Relations” category. I think there weren’t it last year as well. Organizers and jury member want more PR agency to enter more of their work; there is still an opportunity to shine.
Media relations are still an important part of the marketing mix. We must not forget what we are good at. For example they didn’t award in the crisis category neither. These are two thinks where PR is strong.

What about PR measurement?

You have to go beyond monitoring. You won’t win a PR Week award with AVE. You need to show results in sales, effectiveness, and change in government bills. It’s no longer about counting the tweets and re-tweets.

Trends in PR?

The evolution of social good is a bigger and bigger trend. CEOs see this as well, they see that ii is good for their business but also for people. Young people are consistent on this. They want to work in companies where they can make a difference. I think this is a trend building to grow year by year.

What can PR people do to convince more and more CEOs to invest in social good and creativity?

PR people have to be in very good relations with the CEOs. They have to have an ear for your recommendation.  They have to explain the business benefit on a long run. This is the language CEOs understand. If they know this is good for their balance sheet, they will be more likely to do it. PR needs to learn to love numbers.

Interview by Ana-Maria Diceanu, GMP PR. #unPRintreLEI, #CannesLions2015

Steve Barrett is Editor-in-Chief, PR Week.


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