NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Procter & Gamble, the world's biggest advertiser, gave the PR industry a huge vote of confidence today, but it also provided the industry with a stern warning: seize the opportunity currently in front of you or risk losing the chance to lead the marketing mix.
At the Council of Public Relations Firms Critical Issues Forum held here today, Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer at P&G, told the packed auditorium of PR professionals and corporate communications heads that the future of marketing is inextricably linked to the future and growth of PR.
"This is PR's time to shine," Mr. Pritchard said in his keynote speech. "PR is the key for all marketers looking to build meaningful relationships with consumers. When integrated effectively those relationships turn consumers into customers and customers into brand ambassadors."
P&G works with a number of PR shops including Omnicom Group's Porter Novelli, Publicis Groupe's MSLGROUP, Interpublic Group of Cos.' DeVries Public Relations, as well as independent shops Taylor, Paine PR and Marina Maher Communications.
Mr. Pritchard described how PR was essential to the success of four of P&G's biggest marketing campaigns this year, including its Winter Olympics effort, the Head & Shoulders Troy Polamalu campaign, the Cover Girl and Ellen DeGeneres partnership and, of course, the Old Spice Smell Like a Man, Man phenomenon.
"These campaigns were all amplified by PR," Mr. Pritchard said. "PR was able to give our big ideas a megaphone that we used to spur participation that helped lead to spontaneous combustion. PR is going to grow its impact on the future of P&G marketing because it is a great amplifier, builds relationships and invites consumer participation."
Consumer participation became an issue for P&G earlier this year when the Pampers Dry Max diapers crisis exploded in the social-media realm. Mr. Pritchard said the company learned some valuable lessons and more about the value of PR during the crisis.
"I'm not sure our first shots were well aimed," he said. "Our response was pretty standard and it fell flat. Things started shifting for the better when we took a more empathetic approach. We started listening and responding to moms and that started to diffuse everything. We went from listening to hearing, and when you hear something you internalize it and build empathy. The brand will be stronger because of what it went through."
The PR industry, ironically, has often been criticized for not being able to effectively promote its capabilities and Mr. Pritchard advised those in attendance to change that. He said in order for PR to sit atop the marketing food chain it needed to stake its claim in the digital land grab, know how to build brands and be able to create and drive big ideas.
Asked how the industry could "blow the opportunities" before it, Mr. Pritchard said by simply "not seizing them." "You have never had more potential to be fully baked in to the marketing mix or to lead brand-building efforts," Mr. Pritchard said. "You have to step up and make clear what your capabilities are."