Closed innovation is a thing of the past … and communication and connection with your audience is essential to success. By engaging through at least four of eight channels (website, email, social, public relations, partners, events, offline, and beyond) a robust communications process can yield valuable insights to help you innovate better.
— Rob Hoehn, 2017

Public relations (PR) efforts to promote innovation activities are critical, and PR is now central to business strategy. It’s no longer a world where a new product is successfully brought to market with pomp, ceremony, and media madness to the delight of the consumer and followed up by rapid diffusion – unless it’s the next Apple iPhone.

No, PR is now a question of judgment, a careful weighing of content and communication where a firm’s reputation and future hang in the balance. Not enough information outflow about a company’s innovation activities and a firm can quickly become irrelevant. Too much, and a firm can over promise to the disgust of the market.

It’s competitive out there. For products to be envisioned, developed, and ignited, there must be input from external players, including the consumers, as early as the ideation and validation stages, because the relationship between innovation and public relations is circular by nature.

PR is the link between the public and a company’s innovation efforts. In the digital age, there is a long list of PR outputs to be leveraged: media releases, social media posts, launch events, partnership seeking, and crisis management.

Where should the PR director, with high hopes of transforming a jaded show with tired animals into a dynamic, agile experience, begin in this Ringling PR circus?

Managing Expectations: Cementing the Consumer-Brand Relationship

The first article, “Managing Expectations: Cementing the Consumer-Brand Relationship,” explains the need for two types of PR: 1) long term, for building and cementing trust and brand reputation, and 2) short term, to ramp up consumer awareness and media momentum. We explain that a strong consumer-brand relationship is based on a long-term PR strategy, and we illustrate such efforts.

This article also highlights the delicate balance of providing just enough information to the consumer to retain their interest over time, but not so much that they become frustrated or disappointed at product launch, which shatters brand reputation.

Managing and Maintaining Reputation During Product Launches

The next article, “Managing and Maintaining Reputation During Product Launches,” outlines product launch or short-term PR in the digital age, again, with examples of companies that have done it well and those that have failed. This article addresses the important issue of measuring PR effectiveness, including the metrics to be used, because without an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work, there can be no improvement in PR for innovation.

The next steps for PR, if it is to really serve the public and to advance society, are not only to provide information in a form that is best received but also to include the opinions of as many external sources as possible, as early as possible, in the innovation stage. For example, obtaining customer feedback as to whether a concept would be of value provides validation for further development. Also crucial to the credibility of a product’s value is the demonstration of a visible product.

For example, early in its growth stage, PayPal asked its employees to use its payments service and provide input as to their user experience. The result was disruption in the payments industry. Oreo, too, demonstrated its new concept of creating cookies to order using 3D-printer technology and customizing to the consumer’s taste. 

Making an innovation “observable” to the audience is powerful because the value of a product that is seen cannot be refuted. According to a February 2015 article in Computers in Human Behavior: “The easier it is for individuals to see the results of an innovation, the more likely they are to adopt.”

Digital Strategies for Disaster and Breach Management

Lastly, in the third and final article, “Digital Strategies for Disaster and Breach Management” we address perhaps the most challenging area for PR in the era of digital transformation: the increasing threats companies face from cyber security attacks, real-time social media, or product failure, which could quickly extinguish a hard-earned brand reputation unless the PR is consistently and persistently on target.

A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 anyone?

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