Making the Case: Great PR Requires Independence from Marketing

Wayne Schepens
June 17, 2024

There are a lot of misconceptions around the PR discipline as a whole; many believe that it’s a lead generation tool, while others think it’s a means to constantly promote their products. Some even think it guarantees event attendees. However, PR is fundamentally about establishing an organization’s thought leadership and bolstering its credibility through third-party validation. 

At its core, PR for cybersecurity vendors requires exceptional subject matter expertise to build corporate credibility, elevate the company brand, and build awareness. Third-party validation that builds trust in the market is critical for emerging tech companies, but with so much innovation in the industry, a lot of this thought leadership lies in educating the market about new challenges that enterprises face and how they can overcome them. These items are measurable and make great impact, but they can sometimes be out of alignment with the mission of the modern marketing team’s mandate to drive highly qualified leads for the sales team to convert.

After working with upwards of 100 vendors throughout my PR career, I’ve found that a big part of the job is educating marketing teams and leadership on how to best leverage the practice, and what it can or cannot do for their programs. While most marketers understand and value the purpose, they are often pushed by broader market forces and company influences to make it into something it isn’t. They're forced to use inadequate metrics to measure PR’s contributions and to justify the budget.

But this is not the only issue, of course. Too often, heads of marketing programs rely on the same playbook from previous successes, disregarding the unique challenges and opportunities of their current company. This is another trap, because every company has different thought leaders, funding levels, research resources and first-party data generation, target audiences, claims, and messaging – the list goes on. Additionally, times change, industry categories mature and campaigns that worked just 18 months ago (the average lifespan of a CMO) may not work now.

With all of these contributing factors, it's no wonder there's misalignment on the role and methods for measuring PR in most companies. As a result, when the marketing team is underperforming and the organization is forced to make tough decisions on cuts, the first thing to go is often PR. Is there no longer a need for thought leadership? No, it's certainly still a must for the company. Marketing often shifts towards a short-sighted, tactical strategy, prioritizing short-term lead conversion over long-term distinction and preference through effective positioning and storytelling.

Eliminating the PR function makes it harder for founders to keep their company relevant, for subject matter experts to educate the market and demonstrate thought leadership, and for product managers to ensure their products align and rank well within the appropriate category. For all of these reasons and so many more, I think it’s time that we question whether PR should be considered exclusively a function and facet of a company’s marketing strategy.

Placing PR under the oversight of the executive team offers numerous benefits. Executives involved in shaping PR strategy can ensure alignment with overall business objectives and messaging. Executive leadership can also provide valuable insights and guidance based on their deep understanding of the industry landscape and key stakeholders. By taking ownership of PR, executives demonstrate a commitment to fostering credibility and trust in the marketplace, which are essential for long-term success. This closer involvement from executives allows the marketing team to focus more squarely on lead conversion, knowing that the foundation of trust and credibility is being actively nurtured by the leadership team.

For a company to survive and make sales, even in the toughest of times, credibility and trust in the marketplace are critical. But if it's the first thing to go in marketing, how can this be achieved?

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