Thought Leadership

Putting the “PR” in Partnership Relations

Editor’s Note: Anne Green is presenting Why “Partnership Relations” Is the New PR at the PRSA 2016 International Conference on Sunday, Oct. 23, 4:45–5:45 p.m. The following is a guest post previewing her session.*

Since the start of its evolution as a marketing discipline, public relations has been about more than earned media. While members of our industry are often still pigeonholed as press generators, those of us actively engaged on both the client and agency sides of the PR house know there are few professions as diverse and dynamic. And it is one increasingly dominated by acronyms like PESO (paid / earned / social / owned).

Partnerships have obviously been a core component of marketing for decades. Yet they have been frequently driven from the “paid” side of the house. PR-driven partnerships take a different approach. Rather than predicating partnerships on a media buy or complex letter of intent, PR can approach them from the perspective of thought leadership – shaping a platform that is mutually beneficial to both parties.

Commercial entities can develop relationships to leverage shared or adjacent agendas without first ringing up their lawyers, reaching for a contract template or asking “what will it cost me?” And with so many critical cross-overs between industries, technologies, consumer needs / experiences / behaviors and societal issues – the possibilities are significant.

Our work with client Coldwell Banker Real Estate provides a real world illustration of this opportunity. Nearly two years ago, our teams (client and agency) recognized that no major real estate brand had yet invested time, intellectual capital or brand resources to meaningfully engage with the fast-evolving space of smart home and the Internet of Things (IoT).

After initial research and assessment, the tremendous level of opportunity was clear. As a real estate leader long-committed to technology and innovation, Coldwell Banker had the chance to build a comprehensive and genuinely thought-leading platform around smart homes and real estate. And we also recognized that a foundational part of this platform needed to be outreach to – and partnerships with – other top brands bringing this technology into consumer homes.

My colleague, Katy Hendricks, wrote an insightful blog post back in January reflecting on how Coldwell Banker approached partnerships and thought leadership at CES 2016. She noted how in PR, we are often faced with conservative budgets and have to “do the most with least.” However, well-crafted partnerships help us to share marketing resources, audiences and objectives – and become far more than “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.”

This kind of work takes creativity, care, persistence and an openness to allowing relationships to evolve in different ways. Some partners will get excited to be “all in.” Others may stay more on the periphery. There’s value in both and, most importantly, in allowing the ecosystem to shape itself organically.

When considering this kind of strategy, here are some tips for success:

Tips for Building Successful PR-Driven Partnerships

  • Think of partner companies as clients. You need to understand their PR goals as well as their larger business objectives (plus corporate culture and sensitivities). This will help you construct a program that is mutually beneficial and unique.
  • Be expansive in considering your assets and opportunities. For its smart home partners, Coldwell Banker has been able to offer speaking and panel opportunities at high level real estate conferences. This benefitted all participants – providing access to highly targeted venues that would otherwise be off the radar for the tech companies.
  • As PR leaders, make sure you are ready to let go when the time is right. The partnership may be initially forged via the communications team. Yet to truly thrive, it needs to spread out through the organization. Which means that other teams from advertising, marketing, social, paid digital and more must be given a seat at the table.
  • Don’t be afraid to proactively enlist those other departments and marketing peers. Building a true thought leadership platform requires many different elements and channels. And the better the integration, the greater the impact for all parties.

Anne Green is President/CEO of CooperKatz & Company, Inc.

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Anne Green


  • I love this article about Partnership Relations because in this day and age collaborations are so mutually beneficial, however they can also fall flat. Many times partnerships do not have the reach they intended or do not get mutually benefited. I loved the example of Coldwell Banker Real Estate utilizing smart home technology to promote innovation technology combined with real estate. Coldwell positioned itself as a leader of innovation technology and the technology got exposed to those buying from Coldwell. Additionally, it demonstrated how companies can actually save costs by utilizing both companies marketing resources, departments, and teams. Not to mention, the reach of the audience is bigger which is why many influencers have become brands themselves as large companies want to tap into their audience. The four tips are really important and insightful because you must really know the other companies objectives and also communicate within your own company to get everyone involved as well as on the same page to maximize effect. I have experienced many times events between collaborators but the advertising or marketing for it fell flat and hardly anyone was in attendance. It’s important to have clear communication and let people excited about the project take the wheel, hopefully spreading enthusiasm. When done right these partnerships can better communicate a brand or better serve a consumers need/desire. Thanks so much for this insight, can’t wait to implement it!

  • Great read! I can imagine if a client or partner isn’t as motivated that things could fall flat, but is there a point when you would say the relationship with a client has hit a wall and no longer benefits them because of their lack of motivation? Is this a skill a professional should know how to recognize and have an exit strategy?

  • She noted how in PR, we are often faced with conservative budgets and have to “do the most with least.” However, well-crafted partnerships help us to share marketing resources, audiences and objectives – and become far more than “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.”

    …Wow this part of the article really hit home with me as it’s a constant struggle we currently go through at our PR agency. Going to definitely pick your brain through this article as much I can to implement new strategies into our business.

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