Now more than ever, the PR industry sits at the edge of an inflection point that has the potential to affect how we operate, serve clients and ultimately earn a living for decades to come. In fact, some of us believe we are already past that inflection point.

Driven by new technologies, evolving forms of communication and changing consumer behavior, clients are demanding new skills and more impactful results. And as is the case with any change – especially a disruptive change – there will be both opportunity and risk, and winners and losers.

According to a USC study last year, 87 percent of executives in PR believe the term “public relations” won’t accurately describe the work they will be doing in five years. But are we doing enough, quickly enough, to seize the opportunity to expand our roles and the types of work we do for clients?

It is time for the PR industry to wake up to the realities of today or risk being left further behind by marketing, digital and specialty firms – and even some progressive ad agencies – that are more than willing to pigeon-hole PR as an outdated function and take all the new work for themselves.

For decades, PR has been sitting on a competitive advantage that remains unrealized in many ways. Clients see our work as a way to generate true third-party endorsements through earned media, which consumers have always deemed to be more beneficial and credible than advertising.  In other words, the same consumers who are buying products and services from our clients have said that we hold more sway and influence over them than paid advertising.

Yet, we have always charged significantly less for our counsel and services, and completely avoided any discussion of PR’s impact on sales, while ineffectively resorting to ad equivalencies and impressions to try and prove our worth.  As an industry, we should not shy away from talking about how our services not only build brand awareness and boost reputation, but also drive sales.  Yes, sales.  It is important to use the daunting “S word” because everything that we do under the monikers of communications, PR, content, advertising and marketing should absolutely drive sales.

At LDWW, we follow a very simple mantra about what we offer our clients… if you see it, we do it.  Why is that important? With more ways than ever to reach a target audience, our clients typically tell us that just one thing matters – results that impact the business. The clients that believe their marketing, ad, influencer marketing, digital and social content, and PR spends should simultaneously drive brand reputation AND sales simply ask that you deliver results that make a difference and do it in a cost-efficient and cost-effective way.

Is an influencer campaign the answer? How about new and compelling content? Or a media relations campaign kicked off by a creative and eye-catching stunt?  Is a digital ad buy or TV ad the answer? Does an integrated, cross-discipline campaign make sense? The answer is that all of these should be considered based on what matters to the business. And like many of us already do for clients, we need the ability to own every possible approach to educating, communicating with or selling to an audience.

The industry is in flux with big holding companies struggling to deliver on their promises, ad agencies exploring every avenue for growth as TV becomes less reliable as a sales channel, and marketing firms all claiming to do what every other firm already does. The key is to embrace analytics and data and stop operating in the past. Analytics and data are critical factors in driving each of our businesses forward and being able to prove the value of our work to clients who simply want to know what’s working.  If we do not embrace the realities of a data-driven world, and the fact that our industry has always been about those business drivers, then our budgets are rarely going to grow, and we’ll end up going the way of the newspaper industry.