This was a linkedIn discussion I found really interesting. The mere question “is PR dead” illustrates widespread confusion about what PR is and why it is so vital to companies and organizations. I was one of about 50 marketing professionals who weighed in with a response. PR is simply the management of an organizations publics or stakeholders. How could this function ever be obsolete?
Posted by Rick Vargas:
Web 2.0 / Social Networking: Is the death of Public Relations on the horizon? (I have been asked to post this question on behalf of a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous)
Defining PR has always been difficult, and there is no other communications discipline, which encompasses such a wide range of specialisms. There is a tenuous glue which holds the bits of PR together, which is either the fact that it isn’t advertising, or the fact that it operates primarily in non-owned or controlled channels. This isn’t strong glue – especially since operating in a non-owned channel is now where everyone is headed.
There are forces conspiring to dissolve PR. The subject that increasingly comes up whenever PR people are gathered together – eloquently expressed is piece by Matt Shaw – but which could be summarized as the statement that “everyone is a PR agency now”. The advertising agencies and especially the media agencies are now colonizing our patch. But before we develop too sharp a sense of outrage at this fact, it is worth remembering that PR people have no automatic rights of ownership here – you could easily say that the only reason we have ended-up on this patch is because no one else has seen it as desirable real estate.
So the death of PR as a discipline is both good and bad news for those people in it. The skills PR people have will be in increasing demand, but the houses we currently live in will be knocked down and we will have to find new places to live.
Cyrus Afzali, President, Astoria Communications
I don't see where forces are conspiring to dissolve anything. I've said repeatedly, but will say again, we get WAY too caught up in the medium that transmits a message and think that the emergence of a new medium to use for communications means something has to die. In reality, all that happens is the way you craft a message has to change to reflect the culture of the new medium.
What does this mean? Quite simply, proficient PR pros will learn how to craft clear, succinct messages communicating a client's value proposition in the social-media space. Right now, there's much too much hyping going on, but hopefully this will change.
As far as "everyone's a PR agency," my view there is that PR has done such a poor job of branding itself and expressing why it's valuable that everyone's always thought they know how to do PR better than those actually in the business. It's one of the reasons client retention rates are low in comparison to other professional services.
But in the end, all we have is a situation where conventional media outlets are struggling with a new monetization model and social media -- while emerging and potentially very powerful -- is going to have to find a way to become a permanent part of the mix. Let us not forget that most social media outlets don't make any profits either.
Successful PR pros know how to use the best parts of all worlds to help their clients succeed. You can do this in the same house and without dramatic change -- provided you know how to craft clear, succinct messages.
Amy Selbach, Zenzi, Director of Strategic Planning
PR cannot die. According to PR godfather Edward Bernays, “public relations is a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interest of an organization followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”
It seems this definition is still intact; however, the “program of action” has taken on an unexpected life of its own. In a world where anyone with access to a computer can shape public perception by publishing exactly what they think about you, your company or your product in a status update, blog, a podcast, or a vlog, this “management function” can seem untenable. However, it allows us avenues for segmentation never available to us before and the opportunity to reach fewer but more targeted leads....A la Chris Anderson's "Long Tail."
Third party validation will always be a better testament to business than anything else. I think the question we should be asking is "where are the standards for ethics in journalism and citizen reporting and how do we sift through copious amounts of BS?" And in a world of affiliate marketing how do we ensure that "Key influencers" in social media and blogs are not being paid to promote products.
Erica Friedman, Yurikon LLC Intelligent Business Promotion
PR should always have been about how companies shape responses and communicate with their market. PR became the funnel for downward only communication to the detriment of business.
In my opinion Social Media is a godsend that has revived the critical skills of relating to the public and given a whole new lease on life to an industry that had become little more than product announcements and financial reports.