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PR director of the future: Is ‘PR’ still a valid description?

Posted by Debby Penton on 25th November 2015

For our second ‘PR director of the future’ blog, we sought the opinion of Samuel Hall, corporate communications director and social strategist at Oracle. Having worked for some of the biggest tech brands in the world and knowing his love of sharing an opinion or two, we were sure of gaining some valuable insight…

“We need to change the definition of PR, and a new breed of PR person needs to come up through the organisation if PR is to remain relevant and increase its influence” said Sam.

Sam argues that the fate of PR directors can vary greatly according to the type of organisation they work for. He believes that the term ‘PR’ has become limiting (wrongly, but that’s the reality), and is all too often equated with media relations and not what it was meant to be focused on — an organisation’s publics. It is no surprise that the letters ‘PR’ don’t appear in his job title, and Sam’s LinkedIn profile states that his role is “driving integrated PESO (paid, earned, social and owned) campaigns across EMEA.”

Having held senior communications positions in two huge organisations on the public consumer-facing and B2B sides of the fence, Sam has a fairly distinctive experience of the role of PR directors in the future. During his tenure at Vodafone, Sam saw first hand how corporate communications ruled with an iron fist. As a consumer-facing UK-listed company, reputation defence was the number-one priority. In fact there was no ‘marketing department’ in the traditional sense, but brand and corporate departments instead.

Sam has not taken this shift lying down. He argues that PR has more tools to play with now, which makes things a lot more exciting and gives communications professionals a platform from which they can try to move into the wider management of ‘publics’ role as per the ‘real’ function of the job: “Everyone can be a publisher these days, so actually the job is more about brand communication, not just media relations, meaning someone with a PR background can own the story and the narrative across all PESO channels.”

While earned channels are still hugely important, and the third-party credibility of well-placed media stories is critical to brand perception change, communications professionals must also develop an understanding and a comfort with developing owned channels. PR should own those as the key communications channels, as well as bringing paid skill sets into the mix.

“Integrated marketing and communications is a term that has been around a long time. I still find it very relevant today but someone needs to own it,” continues Sam. “A new breed of PR person needs to rise up, as master of one or two channels but a with a solid understanding of them all.

“Someone needs to pull everything together to avoid silos, and this is where the opportunity lies for PR directors in the future. They need to skill up, not rely on agencies to plug knowledge gaps but instead become mini-marketing directors in their own right.”

To download the PR Director of the Future report click here.

Debby Penton

Motivated, competitive and highly experienced, Debby drives excellence across the agency and leads by example, going the extra mile to create stand-out campaigns and a dynamic agency culture. As CEO, Debby champions a new breed of PR that meets the evolving communication needs of today’s tech companies.