Public Relations for the PR Industry
When Brian and I were writing our book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, a large part of our focus was to identify the issues in PR, to motivate professionals to tackle challenges in the industry and to move forward with a new approach. As we sorted through our research and had numerous conversations with experts, both in our industry, in social media, the complaints were all similar. PR lost its credibility and it was time to build back the integrity and respected reputation of a 100+ year old industry. The more we talked to people and reviewed blog posts, tweets and comments surrounding the concerns in our industry, we realized that the problems existed for a long time. Today, social media along with the ability for anyone to become a content producer highlights these pressing PR issues and propels them into the spotlight.
An excerpt from our book explains the current situation and how we need PR for the PR industry.
Often PR practitioners must defend themselves and the industry before they can “sell it.” PR has joined (for reasons discussed previously) other industries prone to continuous criticism: the auto industry (especially sales), real estate financing, and the perennial whipping boy, law. Our job is to adapt to the new world of influence, teach others around us, and, in the process, do a little PR for the PR industry. By doing so, we can fix the very things that spiraled PR into a state of crisis in the first place. If you polled those decision makers responsible for managing communications strategies about how they characterize PR, the following common themes would undoubtedly emerge:
- PR just doesn’t “get it”
- PR relies on hype and spin to “sell” stories
- PR professionals are handlers for those who know what they’re talking about
- PR uses stunts or events to generate excitement and attract attention
- PR spams our messages to contact lists assembled by searching keywords in databases, without considering the preferences of those on the databases
- PR places greater emphasis on the tools than on relationships
- PR looks at customers and influencers as their audience instead of people with individual preferences
- PR professionals don’t do their homework
- PR runs away from metrics
This list is the “anti-PR” and it certainly does not represent the many credible PR professionals that I know and work with today. Whether it was a few or many who contributed to this reputation, it’s great to know that we’re all working together to change this image. I recently received a news release from PR News announcing their efforts to raise the relevance of public relations. The release stated:
“- Underscoring the relevance of public relations to drive marketplace success, influence ideas and manage reputations, PR News has rolled out the industry’s first-ever advocacy campaign touting the power of public relations. The “It’s the PR!” campaign’s main message is that PR is a major driving force, albeit an often unrecognized or dismissed area of the marketing mix.”
It’s great that professionals and PR organizations are banding together to face the issues and to reinvent our industry. There are hurdles to jump over and a lot to learn. We may make some mistakes along the way but together we can contribute to a more knowledgeable and influential class of PR professionals.
April 10, 2009 @ 11:13 pm
More than a book, Putting the Public back in Public Relations feels more like a historical accounting – done in real time — of the past, present, and future of Public Relations. And where the future of Public Relations is already occurring now.
I’m new to social media and web 2.0, so what I saw through the pages of this book was something enlightening. What authors Brian Solis (www.briansolis.com) and Deirdre Breakenridge (deirdrebreakenridge.com) explain, to my way of thinking as a Wharton MBA-trained marketer, is classic “disintermediation” of the market role once enjoyed, in a sort of monopolistic fashion, by the traditional PR agency model.
Pre-web 2.0, PR performed the role of Brand Power Broker. It created, managed, distributed, and targeted the Brand conversation. It created the message of the brand. It distributed the message of brand. It chose the channels through which to distribute the brand message. It divined the profile of specific audiences against which to target those messages.
“…the conversations that are already occurring…”
But today, of course, Solis and Breakenridge explain that these brand conversations are already occurring without the enabling assistance of the PR agency model!
With ease and the awesome efficiency of real-time sharing and distribution of information, consumers, producers, journalists, new influencers, and collaborators are having these conversations directly with each other and across the web in seemingly infinitely arrayed social communities Solis coined as the Conversation Prism.
So instead of promotion that’s pre-packaged, static, and controlled, brand interactions and dialogue now occur naturally — initiated, created, and shared by the marketplace, for the marketplace – without the middleman, without the Power Broker.
Less clear though, is how to encourage PR to discern, face, accept, and engage the new reality of socialized media – and how to re-invent itself and acquire for itself a value-added relevance.
Just as an aside, where I’m beginning to think this can happen best is with the “next-gen” crop of PR professionals at the University-level education. With courseware that educates all future PR professionals on the 2.0 landscape, it’s quite likely that the PR agency model can re-seize for itself an essential role in PR 2.0 today and in the future. Breakenridge has some insight on the New Curriculum for PR on her website.
April 10, 2009 @ 11:37 pm
Juan, I’m thrilled that you found Putting the Public Back in Public Relations enlightening. Although you said you are new to social media, you certainly have a good grasp of PR 2.0 and you are absolutely right that it’s critical for next gen PR pros to be exposed to new PR 2.0 and social media curriculum. These future communicators will carry the flag forward and take PR to new levels, far beyond the controlled brand interactions and pre-packaged communications of years past. Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts with me. Really appreciate your feedback 🙂