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PRSummit: Pritchard Challenges PR Industry To Take Leadership Role

Asia Pacific, EMEA, Global, North America

Arun Sudhaman 30 Oct 2012

MIAMI BEACH--Procter & Gamble chief brand building officer Marc Pritchard today challenged the PR industry to take a leadership role at the Holmes Report’s Global Public Relations Summit in Miami Beach.

In a commanding keynote address on the eve of P&G’s 175th anniversary, Pritchard used P&G’s ‘Thank You, Mom’ Olympic campaign as an example of successful work that was led by the FMCG giant’s PR agency

“Was it marketing, PR, journalism, art?,” asked Pritchard, referring to the Olympic program. “It was all of those things. I would argue, at its heart, it was public relations.”

Pritchard noted that the campaign’s success was driven by its understanding of the real world - “the world of facts, actions and authencity.” This, he said, is “your world, the world of PR.”

However, he warned that “this is not a world in which most of your clients are used to operating.” Instead, most are used to owning messages and media. “We’re also very used to talking about ourselves.”

“Branding is what you say about yourself,” explained Pritchard. “Reputation is what others say about you.”

To help companies make this shift, Pritchard laid down the gauntlet to the PR industry.

“I have a challenge for you,” he told the Summit. “Take the leadership role your discipline deserves. This means you’re going to have to push back on us. Help us see the world through the eyes of reporters…through the perspective of audiences we must earn.”

That, said Pritchard, is where the industry is heading, where PR agencies have the ability to lead by creating the narrative and becoming the “executive producer of branding.”

But, he cautioned, “we’re going to fight you every step of the way.”

“So do us a favour, push us, challenge us, make us think about the audiences we need to reach. If you can use those famous PR powers of persuasion to take us where we need to go, we’ll all win.”

Pritchard also asserted that the PR industry needs to “step up” where social media is concerned, in response to a question from Citizen Relations CEO Daryl McCullough.

“Social media is the art of conversation and who knows the art of conversation better than the PR industry?” asked Pritchard. “If PR can step up and articulate that strategy, I think that PR can lead that.”

He also said that PR has “sold itself short” on creativity, and said the industry should lose its “inferiority complex.”  “It’s actually a very creative industry. Reality brings something really creative.”

Responding to a question from McCullough about the loss of control experienced by marketers, Pritchard noted that “the power has never been in our hands, we just didn’t know it before.”

“Now what you need is, we need to be always on, 365 days a year,” said Pritchard. “People don’t think about our brands very much, but we need to make sure we are always a little bit top of mind.”

To do that, he explained, P&G has created a newsdesk for its brands , after studying operations at USA Today. “That allowed us to be always on and ready.”

Regardless of the work it produces, though, Pritchard noted that the industry continues to be hamstrung by its approach to measurement.

“It is still something that the PR industry and frankly digital agencies, need to figure out,” he said. “If we can’t measure it then it’s hard to value it.” In particular, he said that impressions are a very “blunt instrument”.

Ultimately, concluded Pritchard, it is up to the PR industry to make its case directly to its clients’ leadership.

“The people we all work with are smart and willing, but they don’t know what they don’t know,” he said. “The leadership needs to understand and embrace this. The story art is unique - the other disciplines don’t do that.”
 

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