Will PR Finally Earn Its Stripes At Cannes This Year?

Will PR Finally Earn Its Stripes At Cannes This Year?
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In this guest post, Haystac’s national general manager, Jason Carnew (pictured below), says with all this talk of Cannes at this time of year, it’s a kindly reminder that the PR business needs to get its act together in terms of awards, work and judging…

All eyes on are Cannes as some of the best work in the business is being showered in the praise it deserves with heavy chunks of beautifully formed metal and endless glasses of rosé.

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This already includes the Black Supermarket campaign by Carrefour and Marcel which shows just how powerful PR can be when done right. And, of course, we’re looking forward to seeing how our own work – Project Revoice – stands up against the best in the business.

But, Cannes should also remind every PR agency in Australia that, this time last year, one of the nation’s foremost marketers told us we needed to get our act together.

The call out came from Foxtel CMO, Andy Lark (formerly CMO of CommBank and Xero) in his wrap up from the 2017 Cannes festival when he said:The PR profession needs to get its shit together and that starts with fixing both the work and the judging. Entries based on a mix of antiquated (ad equivalency and eye-balls) and short-term metrics resulted in stunts taking the limelight over effective campaigns. Earned brand power is all the rage, but there is little substance to PR’s new moniker. PR must create a new performance playbook.”

There isn’t a single person in the industry that doesn’t know where Andy is coming from. We’ve heard the same narrative in the trade press and at marketing conferences over the last few years and, over the last 18 months, we’ve personally heard the same thing during new business meetings, with marketers lamenting the fact that many PR agencies appear to be stuck in a viscous cycle where short-term metrics are driving short-term thinking and short-term results.

Andy’s article last year gave Haystac moments of self-reflection; particularly because it came at a time when we were in the middle of a major shift in how we approach our own work. Like many agencies we had added creativity, social, content, digital and integration into our skillset, but still we questioned if these enhanced offerings were enough to elevate the work into a completely new ‘performance playbook’.

We unwaveringly and wholeheartedly believe PR has the power to drive real brand outcomes and business objectives.  To make it a reality we’ve employed brand strategists and creatives that understand the earned space, we’ve elevated our social and content offering, and increased how much we integrate with our sister agencies.

However, the most important drivers have come from a shift in our mindset and how we measure success.  For us, measurement of success is not limited to short-term metrics. We now push ourselves to start with the desired brand and business outcomes and then work backwards to design integrated campaigns that are both creative and effective. This means we use metrics like app downloads, brand perception, traffic to site, SEO effect and share of voice. These don’t trump the likes of reach and quality of coverage, but they do push us to ask more of ourselves and our work.

We have brought new skillsets into the business, but also forced ourselves to first say, “if we had to measure our affect on X, how would we do it.” This means our team has had to learn how brand foundations are built and the role earned media can play in driving these foundations. It’s been a ton of work, but we are well on our way to delivering against our broader brand promise – to create campaigns that fuel long-term brand value as well as short-term engagement.

As Andy so eloquently put it, PR does need to get its shit together. We believe that it is, and that we’re looking forward to (hopefully) seeing this kind of thinking come through on the national stage this week when the PR awards are announced. We’ll be watching from here, celebrating every step forward that the industry has made to prove Andy wrong; PR’s new moniker is well earned.

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