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How to Stand Out in a Crowded Public Relations Industry

High energy prices, troubled industries, flatlining online advertising growth, and geopolitical concerns are just some of the headwinds the U.S. economy faces these days. One would think that these issues would also impact spending on public relations, but that does not appear to be the case. Good news, right? Sort of.

When spending on public relations increases, so does the competition for those dollars. Firms expand, new firms open, and advertising and marketing companies look to expand their roles in the public relations arena. Competition for human assets also heats up, and the once-tranquil PR process really starts to get nasty. Thus, while the potential for success increases, so does the potential for failure.

To stand out in a crowd at a time when the industry is booming, public relations firms must focus on what’s important and adapt to the environment. Here are four ways your firm can stand out in the current crowd:

1. Innovate

Public relations was once limited to a pitch-and-run relationship between public relations firms and journalists. These days, PR consultants communicate directly with the public-at-large and play a big role in marketing, advertising, sales, and business strategy. In recent years, the public relations community has done a decent job of appropriating concepts like blogs, podcasts, and search engine optimization, but more needs to be done.

The firms winning business now are firms that offer services that were once considered outside of the scope of public relations. If you’re just offering press clips in exchange for cash, you’re going to find it hard to attract clients.

2. Remember the Basics

The flipside of innovation is that some firms forget the basics of public relations. Your role is to communicate a clear message, something that becomes more difficult as the lines of communication expand.

I was amazed to be contacted by a public relations firm that said it offers a full suite of services. When I inquired about its ability to land television interviews, the firm said that it specializes in online media only and asked if I’d be interested in getting something on YouTube.

3. Talent

Attracting and retaining seasoned professionals is always important, but more so at a time when the opportunity to jump ship arrives. When an industry is expanding, talented professionals find their services in demand, and entrepreneurial employees may seize the opportunity to go out on their own. The ability to attract and retain talent comes down to some basic concepts, including a firm’s culture, benefits package and forward strategy.

The vast majority of workers want not just comfort, but a challenge. Public relations firms that merely accept their role in the industry — instead of forging a new or wider path — will find themselves with unmotivated current employees and have a difficult time recruiting new employees.

4. Be Aggressive

Companies often wait until an economic downturn to get aggressive; when times are good, they’re often complacent. Now is the time to be aggressive and go after clients you may have felt were out of your league in the past.

One public relations firm I spoke to recently landed its first Fortune 500 client. The firm had to hire three more people to handle the account, and the deal won’t bring profits until after six months. Nonetheless, the firm’s CEO told me that it was “now or never” for his company to go for the big time.

“Our business has grown 50 percent annually for five years,” he said. “If we don’t go after the big fish now, our growth is going to slow.”

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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