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PR: beyond the clichés

Our MD, Jeroen Fermie, sat down with Media Marketing’s editor in chief Griet Byl to discuss the evolution of the Public Relations (PR) industry, and the tools and techniques today’s PR practitioners need to be successful partners to the businesses they work with.

Here are some excerpts from their conversation:

PR cannot be reduced to earned media

In her article, Griet reflects on what it means to be a PR professional today. For decades, PR was the playground of press officers that relied almost exclusively on an up-to-date address book. They were skilled in smooth talk and the power of persuasion. While ‘relationship-building’ is more relevant than ever, the objectives, tools and stakeholder landscape have changed drastically.


“PR has nothing to do anymore with the spin doctoring of the past, and it should not be exclusively limited to storytelling. PR is about building trust with your audiences and has therefore more to do with what you do than with what you say. PR is both storytelling AND story-doing.”

“At Ketchum, we deliver integrated campaigns for clients based on earned-first thinking: creative ideas built on audience insights that are deeply embedded in culture and closely connected to the brand’s DNA. These earned-first ideas are used to develop narratives that earn compelling stories and authentic conversations with and among your stakeholders.”

Fresh perspectives and new talent pools needed for PR to take the lead

Media relations was the traditional focus of PR but pitching client stories has become challenging due to a shrinking traditional media landscape. This does not mean that PR spend is shrinking too. On the contrary, notes Griet; digital, and specifically social media have added additional scope for PR professionals and an opportunity to lead more integrated campaigns. This requires PR agencies to have the right talent in place during a time when all sectors are fighting for talent.


“If the industry wants to attract and convince new talent, we need to work on the reputation of PR itself. Young talent looks for purpose in their job. We need to promote how PR, in these polarizing and unstable times can play an impactful role. PR professionals are well-positioned to positively influence corporate behavior.”

“We need to look for new talent in more than just the usual places. The push for diversity and inclusion in the industry is a necessity in multiple ways.”

Proving the effectiveness of PR requires smart measurement

PR performance was once measured solely by the infamous “advertising value equivalent”, Griet recalls. PR measurement now requires a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques.


“Ketchum has built proprietary tools that enable us to link PR efforts to brand and business impact. We can also uncover audience and cultural insights that inform impactful communications strategies.”

“Data and the capability to interrogate and interpret it are an opportunity to differentiate and position ourselves as PR professionals. To expand PR’s seat at the decision-making table.”

Thanks to Griet for the great conversation!

The full article with Jeroen can be found in the summer issue of Media Marketing.

Jeroen Fermie

Jeroen oversees the agency’s operations and ensures we have the right capabilities to deliver innovative and high-impact work for clients. He empowers the team to deliver on our mission of delivering work that matters by bringing together the different expertise and client service teams into an integrated communications consultancy.

Jeroen brings 15+ years of experience counselling senior executives across the globe through significant business initiatives such as M&A, restructuring, crisis, and rebranding.

Most recently, Jeroen was the Executive Director of Golin in Hong Kong, leading the firm’s corporate reputation practice. Prior to that, he served as GM for MSL, Executive Director for TBWA in Vietnam, and Communications Director Europe for Campbell’s.​


Jeroen Fermie

Managing Director