Having led two successful agencies (Warner Communications and Notably), Carin Warner says that "the key to any success is grit, hard work and really trusting your gut."

Another essential is the flexibility to move with what's changing in the world—and in today's world, that definitely means having a handle on AI.

"it's not enough these days just to say, well, you know, there's AI in the name of the client," Warner tells Simon."AI is great when you say it, but in practice, particularly when you're dealing with the media, you really need to explain the benefits of it and why it's a product differentiator."

She also stresses that PR is much more than simply selling. "I think a lot of what PR does is being a thought leader and having a point of view in the marketplace that will drive others to understand and appreciate and want what you're offering. It really does start not with selling, but really talking about your approach and how it's different and meaningful to the market."

Warner sees also sees "a general lack of understanding of the role that PR plays in lead gen." She callse PR "the wind beneath the marketing and messaging wings," with the kind of detail found in a New York Times or Wall Street Journal story serving as a basis for lead gen. "You use those articles in social media—that can be a call to action there. You can use the basis of those articles to develop a webinar series, for example, on the thematic that that article or articles talks about. So, there's so many great ways to use earned media."

But Warner cautions that earned media should be seen as a starting point—not an end result. "You need a lot more than a one-hit wonder. Even if you have a fantastic story, that does not make a sales effort, that does not make a marketing program successful, that does not put a company on the map."

She also says that PR continues to be underrated. "I don't think people necessarily realize the kind of skill set that you need in order to be successful. There's a zillion PR firms out there. They're all competing against a small group of key media. You have to choose an agency that understands how the media works and doesn't just take your marketing speak and think it's going to play in Peoria."

Neverthess, Warner tells Simon that PR is "a great and cost-effective tactic compared to paid media" and "will absolutely, over time, have a benefit in terms of the valuation of the company. And so, when you think about the bottom line having great PR that's cost-effective can be so helpful in terms of the eventual multiple that you'll get down the line."

View all of the interviews in the “PR's Top Pros Talk” series. Subscribe to get notified when new episodes are available.

Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]

D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.