When I founded Aker Ink in 2007, the PR and marketing landscapes looked very different. Many of today’s most relied upon tools and tactics were in their infancy, or they didn’t yet exist. These two business functions – while both vital to the growth and profitability of an organization – frequently lacked integration. Today, I firmly believe that true business development success is achieved through a thoughtful integration of tactics based on timing, business phase, resources and, of course, creativity and a willingness to experiment.
Back in the Olden Days
Let’s rewind a bit to the mid-2000s. Facebook was newly opened to the general public and claiming a LinkedIn profile was considered forward-thinking. A blog was still akin to a personal diary in many circles and securing a story “above the fold” in your daily newspaper was the holy grail of media outreach.
PR and communications teams were commonly siloed from marketing departments at this time, with PR pros engrossed in securing media coverage and planning promotional events while marketing teams focused on creative campaigns, sales support, rudimentary digital tactics, direct mail and traditional advertising. Granted, this is a broad generalization and certainly wasn’t the case with every organization, but you get the gist. Everyone had their own lane.
Technological capabilities also exploded over the next few years, and it was a very exciting and often taxing time for PR professionals and marketers. How and when to reach customers was constantly evolving. There were internal battles over “who owned social media,” as both departments brought valuable skillsets to the table. It could also be a challenge to convince the C-suite that investment in a functional, intuitive and slick-looking website wasn’t just a luxury anymore. The concept of “intuitive” was also evolving.
Recession Calls for Creativity
As a public relations agency, we were known for securing outstanding media coverage. Numerous team members hailed from the journalism world (including me), and we were skilled at identifying newsworthy story angles in what others would deem a dull company narrative. This skillset was especially imperative when the Great Recession hit, and thousands of publications shuttered nationwide. The competition for coverage was stiff, yet we maintained our consistency.
Anyone who worked in PR during the recession would agree that the industry was thrown into a tailspin. PR pros often wondered: Where do I pitch now that most of the publications have folded? Why won’t anyone read my press release? (This is another blog for another day.)
This is when the most creative and nimble professionals rose to the top and continued to thrive. As a boutique agency, we adapted quickly and eagerly, welcoming many digital tactics in our early days well before our PR peers. We realized that if we couldn’t get word out through traditional media, we would have to largely self-publish through other channels (i.e.: blogs, social media, email, etc.). At this same time, digital technologies were on fire and the average professional no longer needed an IT background to update a website. Enter the concept of “content marketing.”
We partnered with some incredible creative agencies, delving deep into SEO and digital strategies while still maintaining our core PR services. We merged these tactics – PR, content marketing and other forms of marketing – at the boutique level, recognizing how they interact and support each other, while many of our peers remained siloed. With this expanded skillset and mindset, we became an invaluable partner to our clients.
Fast Forward to Today
I could write a novel on the evolution of the PR industry pre- and post-Great Recession. But I will spare you – unless questioned during happy hour with a glass of wine. Then I’ll talk your ear off for hours.
Let’s return to the heart of this blog: Aker Ink rebranding.
We felt it was time (and honestly a bit overdue) to recognize ourselves as a PR and marketing agency – and not just a public relations firm. PR in the traditional sense will always be a primary service at Aker Ink, but I believe that companies are shortchanging themselves and missing growth opportunities if they do not take a holistic view and integrate tactics. Prime media coverage and a fancy event will ultimately fall flat if a website isn’t intuitively designed to capture leads. SEO success cannot be achieved without highly targeted online media coverage and astute story development. “Stories” are no longer told with words alone. And newspapers, God love ’em, are no longer the end-all-be-all.
Aker Ink Public Relations is now Aker Ink PR & Marketing because of the value we place on integrated tactics. If you would like more details about this subtle yet important rebrand, I’m always available for happy hour.