What the Heck is “Strategic Communications?”

It’s been almost a year since we rebranded our firm from R&J Public Relations to R&J Strategic Communications. In that time, I’ve found myself explaining the distinction between “SC” and “PR” more times than I can count (mostly to my relatives, who never quite understood what PR was in the first place).

So, what’s changed? Well, for starters, media fragmentation has increased, television, radio and print audiences have eroded, and the Internet has cemented its position as the dominant communications vehicle. Throw in the fact that we now have access to more and better data on audience reach, relevance and engagement and you can see that “business as usual” was not a viable option for us. Public relations, which over the past decade had already assumed a much more prominent role in leading the communications mix, needed to further evolve.

With each passing day it became more and more apparent that every action that we as an agency took on behalf of our clients had a cascading effect across the clients’ enterprise. We recognized that the fundamental role of PR – to build mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics – was just one aspect of what we were accomplishing for our clients, and only part of what clients needed. While PR continues to be an essential part of what we do, it is simply one piece of a far more complex and intricate puzzle.

Agency leadership knew that, in order to deliver the services, and more importantly, the results demanded by clients, we had to not only do more, we had to do it better.

The notion of what PR is and what it must do had to expand. In today’s business landscape, we need to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, and preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of our clients’ interests, policies, and objectives. We have to do this across multiple stand-alone and integrated media channels, using a full toolbox of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and services that are synchronized with the internal actions of the organization. And we have to be able to better measure the results of our efforts, and deliver tangible ROI.

Against that backdrop, we set out a year ago to redefine our core purpose and deliverables. It started with a re-examination of our mission, vision and values. We dug deep to narrowly define our “agency DNA.” At the same time, we strengthened our digital team by bringing on several seasoned professionals who have helped to further integrate the latest digital marketing best practices into our clients’ marketing communications initiatives. And we acquired an award-winning boutique graphic and web design and development firm with whom we’d worked closely for several years, integrating their clients, services and staff seamlessly within our agency.

But, perhaps most importantly, we embraced the PESO media model (Paid / Earned / Shared / Owned) of service delivery, doing away with the inefficient and outdated “silo” model of media delivery – you know, the one they practiced in the TV show Mad Men, back in the 60s. We are now delivering fully integrated, strategic communications programs and campaigns across multiple media platforms and disciplines, building synergies that act as a true “force multiplier” where the totality of the output (as measured in results) is greater than the sum of its component parts. As a result, we are delivering better and more effective results for our clients. (I will blog more about the “nuts and bolts” of the PESO media model shortly – watch for it.)

All of these actions, implemented over the course of the past year, have been instrumental in driving success for our clients, which, in turn, has resulted in the growth of the agency. And taken as a whole, they are what make up “strategic communications.”

Now more than ever, clients expect to see measurable results that increase their bottom line. With a laser-focus on delivering strategic communications, built around expanded and more robust areas of expertise, delivered in the marketplace via the PESO media model, we are doing just that.

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About John Lonsdorf

John is a recognized leader in the public relations and marketing communications fields. He founded R&J in 1986 and has led the firm through several strategic re-brandings while building the agency into one of the region’s leading strategic communications consultancies. John has authored numerous articles on brand building and the role of public relations and the importance of integrated marketing, and has been a speaker and presenter at national conferences and symposia, in addition to sitting on several industry and not-for-profit boards. John impacts each account at R&J through his laser focus on strategic direction and his drive to provide clients with the maximum returns on their marketing communications investment.

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