Exclusive Interview with PR and social strategy expert: Ken Wincko, SVP Marketing, PR Newswire

The truth of what ‘traditional PR’ really is in todays world of social strategy and organic reach is debated daily. Brands like PR Newswire survive and thrive in the ever changing landscape by creating the right story for a target audience and surfacing it in the channels they’re using to find and share information. That originally took the form of PR outreach to media, but today has grown to expand and include bloggers, social influencers, industry analysts…the people who matter and who are driving engagement and actions that produce real and measurable outcomes for marketing and PR efforts.

We recently sat down with Ken Wincko, SVP of Marketing over at PR Newswire, to discuss staying relevant in the ever changing industry we call Public Relations.

Tell me about the inception and philosophy of PR Newswire.

Ken Wincko: PR Newswire was founded in 1954 by Herbert Muschel, who had the visionary idea to help companies share their news simultaneously with multiple media points, and was truly in many ways a pioneer of the fair and broad disclosure movement. As new technologies are developed, PR Newswire has continued build out its capabilities, which now encompass helping clients create their story—especially with an eye toward multimedia content and visual engagement, share it via every appropriate channel: online, feeds, social, etc., and measure the results to continue to understand and tailor their efforts for the greatest chance of success.

PR Newswire is somewhat unique: it was conceived by industry practitioners looking to solve everyday public relations and investor relations challenges with technology. Our philosophy can be traced back to that initial conception: we develop and advance technologies that evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the public relations, corporate communications, marketing, shareholder communications and media landscapes. We’ve not really left the mindset of “living” our business, and our marketing and communications teams are still the users of many, if not all, of our products, providing unique insights for development and positioning. We understand market needs because we have them.

What’s the company culture at the office like?

Ken Wincko: A brand is only as valuable as the people behind it, and I would say that PR Newswire has been a successful business for over 60 years due in large part to the dedication, passion and expertise of its employees. Spanning the globe, each office has its own “micro-culture,” but all are made up of a group of people representing a wide variety of perspectives and expertise, both within and outside the industry—a blend and variety that stretches across all aspects of PR, marketing, communications and capital markets.

Ultimately, PR Newswire has fostered a collaborative culture, which extends beyond inter-office relationships to our interactions with journalists and experts, and is best represented by our partnerships with clients.

Obviously working for a company with the history that PR Newswire has in the industry inspires a lot of pride—but we aren’t making decisions that simply maintain the status quo…at our core, PR Newswire remains a progressive company. We have incredibly talented and intelligent people who are anything but complacent, they’re hard working and focused on delivering the best possible solutions and services to meet and anticipate the needs of this ever-changing market.

It’s not unusual to find employees who have been with PR Newswire, 5, 10, 15 years and beyond, which translates into unique institutional knowledge and deep-rooted industry and client relationships. We very much have fostered and benefit from a customer-centric company culture that rewards intelligence, pushing the envelope and always looking to do the right thing—not just for the company but for the diverse communities we serve.

How do you stay relevant in a constantly evolving industry?

Ken Wincko: There’s an old adage that says “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” The beauty of public relations, marketing and communications, especially in this technology driven age, is that no one is ever the smartest person in the room forever—we are all tasked with staying abreast of trends, challenges, needs and opportunities, which isn’t a burden when you enjoy what you do.

In many ways, staying up to date with data and trends is inherently tied to one of PR Newswire’s core capabilities: monitoring for new information, data and research via our own platforms. We also partner with external leaders, from traditional outlets like PR News, PR Week and Ragan’s PR Daily, to outlets that represent our growing and emerging verticals such as Content Marketing Institute and the New York Stock Exchange.

Change and complexity is accelerating on a daily basis, a challenge which we recognize and are prepared to face head on in order to help our clients stay ahead of day-to-day incremental evolutions and future megatrends looming on the horizon.

This thirst for knowledge informs many of our own efforts, as we are continually conducting primary and secondary research to better inform our strategy and working with clients across a variety of industry verticals to gain day to day insights. Ongoing research initiatives include:

  • Conducting targeted surveys.
  • Engaging clients and analysts on industry trends and challenges

What are a few programs that help you stand out from competitors?

Ken Wincko: In terms of core capabilities that distinguish PR Newswire from the competition—and which we continue to invest in and develop—content creation remains a focus: our MultiVu Creative Services Division works across the full spectrum of multimedia content production, from storyboarding to video production (whether b-roll, animation, kinetic typography, etc.) and finally through to distribution, with advanced platforms like our Multimedia News Release branded landing page and ARC microsite platform to drive the most engagement and ROI for multimedia content. Monitoring remains a focus, as we continue to build out our platform products with new channels, to deliver a robust and comprehensive view of how your brand is resonating across print, digital and broadcast.

I think one of the biggest things that differentiates us from the competition is that we truly do practice what we preach. In 2014 that meant investing in and launching a multi-channel, content-driven demand generation program leveraging our own products and platforms. Our team created a large volume of original content focused on core themes, including content marketing and measurement, which aligns to the buyer’s journey and user personas, shared with our audience via combination of paid, earned and owned channels. This content successfully engages our target audiences and builds trust to cement a relationship—helping us fulfill the role of strategic communications partner.

Who is the typical PR Newswire client?

Ken Wincko: PR Newswire does not serve a “typical” industry—so it’s difficult to paint the picture of a “typical” client. We serve both B2B and B2C operations in virtually every vertical, from fashion to healthcare to automotive to electronic gaming, to give a scope of the breadth and variety of mass to niche markets. Our clients come in all sizes, from family owned small businesses to Fortune 500. What unites our client base is drive—we work with clients who want to be more sophisticated in their marketing communication efforts, who understand that the value of storytelling lies in creating compelling and authentic content, and who are looking for a high-quality, strategic partner to help them reach their goals across a variety of markets and channels.

Their efforts range from product and personnel announcements to earnings releases and content marketing distribution and aim for goals as traditional as media coverage and brand awareness to the more marketing aligned increased web traffic and new lead acquisition. Our relationship is built on trust; clients trust us to deliver a tailored approach that understands their objectives and provides solutions to deliver on them—with detailed reporting and measurement that prove results.

Why do you think it’s important to hire an outside PR distribution firm?

Ken Wincko: Nearly every marketing and PR department surpasses its resource constraints in delivering content strategy and creation—it’s almost impossible to do it all yourself, let alone do it all yourself well. This challenge was highlighted by recent Forrester research which showed that only 4% of surveyed B2B marketers rank highly on the content marketing maturity scale—the majority (52%) are still in the beginning stages of shaping a content strategy and executing against it.

Ultimately, partnering with a content distribution firm like PR Newswire allows you to tap into years of targeting influencers, relationship building and distribution network growth that ensure your message is in front of the right audience—and if you’re looking to expand into new industry verticals or geographies, it saves you months if not years of research and cultural acclimation. If you focus on that and effectively evaluate the success of your various efforts, your content creation will become a well-oiled machine; if you take it one step further and invest in these efforts with content distribution, a professional firm can provide the best strategy to build your digital footprint, and will provide you a data-based view of works and what approach will get your content in front of the right people.

What’s new and on the horizon for PR Newswire?

Ken Wincko: PR Newswire remains focused on doing what it does best and has done for the better part of a century: meeting client needs and surpassing client expectations with solutions that maximize their content marketing efforts and optimize the workflow of communications efforts. We continue to invest in new technologies and developments to existing products and platforms, with a focus on advancing listening tools to inform higher quality content creation, as well as expansion and increased depth in our targeting options to deliver more high-quality networks of contacts and influencers, and investment in multimedia offerings that make producing and sharing engaging and interactive content easier than ever before.