PR Lessons from the Design World

  • March 27, 2015
  • Candice Eng

At SXSW, I attended a panel called “The Rise of the Creative Economy.” I did not know what could come from the session that would be applicable to what I do in public relations; I just thought it would be interesting to hear from the designer point of view about the inner workings of their industry. The panel turned out not only to be insightful about the design industry, but drew some very interesting parallels to the difficulties and approaches PR professionals deal with in their careers.

Two key takeaways that really stuck out to me were the importance of storytelling and the value of quality, expert work.

Storytelling. At INK, we pride ourselves on being storytellers. We specialize in telling complex, evolving stories in a simple, digestible way through media relations, content creation, and social media. As a result, our clients have received brand-building coverage in top national and tech outlets such as Mashable, Wired, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, as well as the trade outlets that matter to their business. We know what stories to tell, to who, and via which channel.

While we excel at this for our clients, PR professionals often don’t prioritize this for themselves. PR needs to get better at doing our own PR. We need to improve the way we showcase our work and get opportunities. Red Antler’s Emily Heyward talked about how in addition to just providing clients with great creative design or a logo, you must be sure you’re always telling a story that accompanies your work. That story can be about the value your design work is bringing to the client or why you chose to go down a specific path for them. We need to consistently tell our clients the story of how and why public relations is a key component to their business priorities and reaching their goals.

Value of professional work. One of the biggest challenges the panel discussed that designers face is the abundance of low-cost, stock designs available on the Internet today. Companies can pay very little to get a logo and brand design put together in no time. PR faces similar challenges as we navigate a changing landscape with numerous bargain options for press releases, media coverage, and social media work. This fast food approach may result in quick wins, but they usually mean very little in the long run and can even be detrimental to a brand.

At INK, we believe a company’s story, brand, and reputation are things to be handled with care, by people you know and who know you. The panelists shared numerous stories of clients who took the inexpensive, instant gratification route and regretted their decision. They realized that the quality was not up to par – the work they received was not representative of who they were and did not position them for success in the marketplace. Just as there is value in designers who provide custom work, PR professionals must highlight the value of their custom client services. A key differentiator in contracting professional work versus paying for stock work is that the professional takes time to understand the company’s business, their priorities, their goals, and the targets to connect them with for success. As they say, Rome was not built in a day. Any good businessman knows that in order to build a company with staying power, you must be patient, consistent, and smart with your strategy. PR is often a marathon and not a sprint, and a successful PR agency is one that builds long-term partnerships.

What are your thoughts how PR professionals can show value? We would love to hear from you.

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