Working in the public relations (PR) field requires a media messaging strategy that is in line with an organization’s overarching communications and marketing strategy. In the industry this is referred to as a “strategic communication” plan and it requires PR managers to make sure all media coverage and publicity promote their organizations’ overall strategic missions. To do this, public relations managers should be involved in all communication channels within their organizations. The Master of Arts in Strategic Communication from American University's School of Communication prepares PR professionals who want to take their careers to the next level through curriculum that includes a broad study of communication as it is used in content marketing, technology, social media, and communication research.
How PR Fits Into Content Marketing
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the creation and distribution of content that’s relevant to an organization’s audience and is designed to engage them without directly selling to them. The hope is the content will build relationships and convert readers into long-term customers.
PR managers play a role in content marketing by making sure messages that are shared through the media are consistent to potential customers, employees and stakeholders. The future of communication hinges largely on content marketing, and the creation of valuable content advances an organization’s mission and improves its image. Content marketing, as part of strategic communications, requires the ability to evaluate what type of content readers seek, as well as the communication styles that most resonate with them. The Public Relations Society of America refers to “participation marketing,” as the co-creation of content that increases a business’s reach and credibility, and is at the forefront of content marketing. PR professionals who can successfully manage the collaboration and creation of content used for strategic communications will ensure better success for the organization’s communication goals.
PR Professionals Need Technology Skills
Technology advancements can change the way we communicate. Those in public relations must keep up with advances or risk losing the attention of their target audience. Public relations professionals use various technology approaches to communicate with the media and their organization’s audiences and to measure the success of marketing campaigns. These technological approaches include:
- Digital content, such as blogs, websites, press releases, message boards, forums
- Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn
- Measurement tools, such as Google Analytics, Buffer, Tagboard
PR managers must not become complacent with their knowledge of technology. Communications professionals must stay up to date on technology developments that affect and enhance PR campaigns.
Organizations that lack a presence in social media are missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with prospective customers and stakeholders. However, an organization’s use of social media may also pose risks, which are the PR manager’s responsibility to monitor and help prevent. The global nature of social media and its accessibility increase an organization’s vulnerability to inaccurate or controversial content. Once something has been published online, it has the potential to outlive the person who posted it.
PR managers keep a tight grip on organizations’ social media presences, to ensure that social media activity improves connections between organizations and their audiences, rather than damage their public image. They are particularly interested in using “sentiment analysis,” which is also referred to as “opinion mining.” These tools measure users’ attitudes toward the organization and its products by looking for keywords with positive, negative and neutral connotations as they are used in conjunction with words that are associated with the brand and its products and services.
Analysis of Strategic Communications
While PR managers usually serve as the public face of businesses, they also play important roles in the adherence of the companies’ overall strategic communication plan. They collect data about the effects of a particular piece of communication, and they use it to:
- Measure the number of shares, likes and comments are in line with the strategic plan
- Determine if communication reaches intended audiences
- Gauge sentiment about their companies’ products and services
- Recommend changes to the plan based on their findings
This calls for ethical leadership and decision-making, skills that are developed in a communication graduate degree program.
Graduate Degrees for PR Majors
PR professionals have a lot of choices for graduate school. An online master of arts in strategic communication will help develop even more effective communication skills, as well as apply knowledge and skills as students collaborate on strategic communications plans.