Nick Powills: The Future of PR Will Be This
Nick Powills: The Future of PR Will Be This

The future of PR will be a blended approach. One that hits the target from multiple angles – not a single gunshot.

Public relations is dying – and some would argue it is already dead.

Let me tell you how I got here.

I started my professional career as a journalist. Well, technically a copy editor – but quickly became a columnist for the Northwest Herald (a small daily newspaper in the Chicago burbs). I started writing a column where I got celebrities to hang up the phone on me by asking horrible questions (plenty of judgment deserved there). There was one thing I hated above any part of the rest of the job (I had to edit and design the religion section), and that was publicists.

Publicists would call me 10 times a day asking if I read their press release. I would get roughly 150 emails a day pitching me something. Maybe 10 of those would be on point with what I actually wrote about – entertainment.

Why did I hate them?

  1. They would call and ask if I saw their press release. What press release? What was the why? Publicists really struggle with understanding what makes a story. They struggle with giving me the purpose behind their pitch. At the end of the day, they are salespeople selling stories that cost nothing. Their job is to make my job easier (as a journalist).
  2. They would pitch crap. They wouldn’t study what I wrote, nor the location of the paper. Again, problems with the why.
  3. Those who would email me 30 times about writing about something that I didn’t write about would be deleted 30 times. Spam.

Then, one day, I looked at my paycheck and noticed that at $29,500, I was paid very little – at least too little to edit the religion section and be harassed by publicists all day – that I quit. And I went into PR.

When I took the job in PR, I figured I had an advantage since I was a journalist who aspired to be an entrepreneur (a dangerous combination), meaning, I understood what a story was (brands don’t sell brands, people do) and I understood sales (better have a why). When I jumped into PR, I crushed it (sorry to be so modest).

I would call journalists with real stories. I would tell them about my story. I would connect with them. I would treat them like I would a prospective client – with authentic care. I owned the world of earned media.

But over the years, the calls have changed. The process has changed. More journalists have jumped to the dark side. The sophistication level is adapting to those who are paid less.

Why?

Advertising drives journalism. Meaning, journalism only exists to provide value to advertisers – and that exposure is thickening.

Want to have your product on Good Morning America? You can buy it.

Want to have your story in Forbes? You can buy it.

Want to put your message in front of the right person in the right market? Facebook allows you to buy it.
Want to influence a network to act? Influencers will sell it to you.

In the middle of these changes is a secret. You are not the journalist. If you want to publish something about the Cubs game while the game is in action, not when it is over in the Sunday newspaper, you can. You are the journalist. We are the journalists. The journalist and their credibility are dying – right in front of our eyes.

But with change comes opportunity.

PR was all about helping brands get their messages out there. Earned media is certainly a part of the puzzle, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all. PR is not about tons and tons of placements; it’s about the right headlines that connect with the right personas. It is data-based marketing. It is this evolution where you can do amazing things with fewer successes.

The future of PR will be a blended approach. One that hits the target from multiple angles – not a single gunshot.

The future of PR is content marketing. Not bullshit blogging – but true content that is marketed to people who care.

Algorithms are getting stronger. AI is taking off. Your data is stronger than you even know.

The future of PR will be identified personas with smart content/storytelling that’s delivered. Old school PR firms will die in the water – new age will thrive.

We as humans still need information – whether that’s scrolling through our phone with our fat fingers or texting or talking. We still need it. The future of PR will be better. And I, for one, am severely looking forward to it. My days as a journalist, publicist and entrepreneur have set me and my team up to be on the forefront of it. We are ready to own it and deliver it to you.

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