Who Even Needs a PR Team These Days?

Tesla decided it doesn’t need people to work with the media. Can that work for others?

Not that many years ago, having a sharp public relations team was critical for organizations which needed to get their messages to the public. If newspapers and TV stations wouldn’t talk about a brand, chances are nobody else would.

 

Then came websites and social media. Those amazing advancements allowed companies to speak directly to their customers and fans, all while making it much easier to track return on investment.

 

Critically, the new tools also allowed organizations to control the entire message, rather than risking a reporter getting something wrong or presenting someone else’s perspective. At Candor, we say the modern world turned everyone into their own storyteller.

 

As self-publishing and self-promotion became more commonplace, some people thought traditional media relations mattered less, especially as newsrooms and space for stories fell. But we were still surprised when electric car maker Tesla eliminated its PR department.

 

Surely this led other companies to look at their PR pros – and their salaries – very carefully. They’re now asking, “Do we even need this department?”

 

Companies run by the world’s richest man, who happens to be the kind of guy who launches cars into orbit, can rely on guaranteed extensive coverage for anything and everything they do.

 

For everyone else, it’s much more fraught.

 

Organizations with big goals can still get a boost from newspapers and TV news (well, mostly from those media outlets’ websites). These more traditional sources complement news distributed by bloggers and independent reporters, as well as in-house storytelling. A company posts a video about its latest product, blogs and websites comment, the brand boosts some of that content on its social channels to drive more coverage, and on and on.

 

Traditional PR can’t stand alone these days. But neither can the newer channels. A robust, strategic communications and marketing effort requires getting all these streams flowing in the same direction, highlighting the good news and minimizing or correcting any opposition.

 

Experienced PR professionals – whether they have a background in news, corporate communications or some other field – can help plan the messaging, anticipate danger and react quickly when things aren’t going the way they were intended.

 

And there’s massive value in having someone on your team who can drive the conversation when the media ask questions. Reputation management means having someone responding to calls, emails and DMs who knows what to say, when to respond and how to frame your message.

 

Your CFO may look at the PR team as a cost center – and your CEO may want to follow in Elon Musk’s footsteps. But an always-on, interconnected world means there’s still room for PR to be a shining star by protecting your brand and creating stellar value.


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