Do PR Pros Suffer from Flavor-of-the-Month Syndrome?

By Maury Tobin

As the owner of a firm that produces written content, audio and video podcasts and Radio Media Tours (RMTs), I believe many PR professionals look for the magic bullet, which can get them stuck on certain tactics.

But effective PR shouldn’t just be about embracing the latest fad.

Social media, enter stage left.

Our profession is hyper-focused on this medium, but we’re like giddy teens on a first date as we’re trying to figure out how to act and what to do.

Public relations should be about developing a range of skills and tactics to help you communicate in a variety of ways and situations. Sometimes it’s a time-sensitive campaign. Other times, it’s continuous, as in the case of managing your organization’s reputation.

Maury Tobin with one of his rescue dogs Angel
Maury Tobin with one of his rescue dogs Angel

The reality is there is no reigning method of the moment.

Here are some additional observations I’d like to share:

1. Social media is important, but it’s not a turnkey solution for everything.

While it’s true that social media enables us to reach target audiences more directly in some cases, we’re now seeing how difficult it is to consistently capture the attention of these audiences with sub-par messaging.

What makes social media important isn’t just the platform of an automatic delivery system — it’s the veracity and strength of the content you provide through these channels.

We have to realize that audiences respond better, over the long term, to the quality of our messages, stories and content. That means that connecting with them on a deeper level should be the goal. Show me an interesting story that is well-written and follows the journalistic principles of good reporting or point to a distinctive podcast, and you’ll see how PR and marketing beyond mediocrity evolve.

It’s true that relic brand Old Spice nabbed accolades for leveraging viral videos and Forbes identifies companies to watch because of their stand-out social media, but that’s not the entire picture. For example, the Public Affairs Council (PAC), in response to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, cautioned that a majority of companies were not using social media in crises.

We still have to stay mindful of the social science of how the human brain works, and how consumers of content respond to information that is beyond the sexy and the brief.

2. The organizations with the best variety and quality of content will prevail.

Public relations has long been an industry filled with professionals enamored with buzzwords, acronyms and leaders who prophesize new catch phrases and are constantly amped up by the latest trends, like they’ve drunk three Red Bulls in a row.

This kind of approach can amount to nothing more than bland salesmanship if your content pool is shallow. The point is that good content — not just all the bells and whistles — is the driver in PR.

Today, it’s the organizations that produce robust and ongoing content that have an edge in their campaigns and online footprint.

I’m a big believer in the power of client-generated content (not just earned media) that captures great storytelling, which can help trigger an organic response and generate audience buy-in.

3. The good news is that RMTs can serve multiple purposes.

As a Radio Media Tour (RMT) provider since 1996, I know that audio content from interviews with radio journalists is very compelling. And because of social media and other technological advancements, there are multiple options for maximizing the usage of that audio effectively. Radio is still a valuable medium, but the lesson is that we should think of radio interviews as collections of content that extend beyond RMTs.

Promoting interesting sound bites from an RMT through social media is a great tactic to leverage campaign messages.

RMTs fit well in the PR paradigm since nonprofits, corporations and other organizations want to reach target audiences that respond to authentic storytelling and content.

An Ohio radio station recently spoke with David Jenkins, of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, about a new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency that clarifies its oversight of sensitive wetland areas. Listen to a snippet from our client’s advocacy campaign.

Maury Tobin is the President of Tobin Communications, Inc., a firm he founded in 1996 that provides integrated campaign and digital services. Tobin earned both a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Master’s Degree in Public Communication at American University.