PR: The jack of all trades WILL get the worm…

Ladies and gentlemen. 

For many years our profession has struggled with the issue of “getting a seat at the table”.  This was the issue-de-jour for many years.  How can we get PR to be taken more seriously. It’s probably still an issue but I don’t know for sure because it’s hard to find a lot of opinions on Public Relations – in the broadest sense.

I read there are now over 600 PR bloggers.  That is fantastic.

That is a wealth of information, opinions and viewpoints unimaginable even just a few years ago. 

Back in 2002 you were stuck with a couple of password protected websites, mailing lists – where people with huge egos to match their mouths dominated what today we would call “conversation”. There were, in March 2002, four PR blogs. Interestingly two in Europe and two in the US.

Today it’s all changed. You could lose days and weeks reading PR blogs – that is a fantastic advancement.

However, there is one cloud on this horizon. While the medium of blogging is continuing its slow yet steady path into the general public consciousness, we should not forget that PR is a broad church with many constituencies.

In my ever humble opinion there’s too much discussion of new media in isolation.  The future success of Public Relations doesn’t reside with the adoption of blogging et al – rather it resides in the intersection of the new and the established – I don’t use the word ‘old’ because that has certain nuances with which I don’t agree.

I read a blog yesterday, from a distinguished long time practitioner which had a category for “Legacy PR” – in the name of all things that are sacred.

My distaste for the term “New PR” is only surpassed by the term PR 2.0

Ladies and Gentlemen, if PR 2.0 is your nirvana I strongly suggest you adopt a colorful sock puppet as your mascot and make like a dot com.

PR 2.0 is a nonsense.

[You know me I’m not a big fan of opinions :-)]

PR 2.0 insinuates there’s a PR 1.0 (there isn’t) and that we’re seeing something better emerge to replace it (we aren’t).

This isn’t about replacement, this is about integration. I’ve made this point before many times, and now I’m making it again.

This isn’t just about media relations or blogger relations.

This is why the Web 2.0 “visionaries” are irrelevant.

With PR 2.0 you are pitching an idea whose time has not only not arrived, but never will.

This is NOT about the new new thing. 

By all means investigate the new tools, channels, services and ideas that emerge every second hour. Poke them, see if they have potential uses, share your views, opinions and hopes, but please don’t present them all as the next new new thing. [As an experiment arrange the following words into a sentence: cried, the, wolf, who and boy]

If you are talking about PUBLIC RELATIONS, then it’s not the tools, the channels or the technology that matters – it’s the audience.

When every human being on the planet exclusively receives information from the Web then we should probably revisit this topic.  In the meantime let us have some balance. [Yes there are some more advanced markets where people find more information online – but they still read traditional media.]

Let’s have some really interesting discussion on how the combination of existing tools and techniques with blogs, podcasts etc. are helping PR people do a better job.

Let’s talk about the online stuff that is having an impact on PR today and most people ignore because it’s not shiny, exciting or glamorous.

[e,g, Where is the first place you find information online? A search engine?  How many PR people know about, or offer services on Search Engine Optimization? Surely this is key to online reputation management? No, you’re right flickricious 3.2 is far more important.]

Let’s extend the online discussion into all areas of Public Relations from internal communications to more vertical markets, investor relations, analyst relations, public affairs.

Let’s talk about what matters – the best way to communicate ideas and information.

Let’s leave the hyperbole where it is and talk about PR.

One of the major reasons that Public Relations is such a fascinating profession, is also a reason why its so misunderstood – diversity.

To ignore that diversity and instead focus on inane discussions on the death of the media makes no sense to me.

I think the discussion on new media/tools is fantastic, incredibly interesting and will shape communications in the future, but don’t fall into the trap of forgetting that what we do is communicate – in many different ways, to many different audiences, in many different locations. 

Tools that make that process more effective are welcome, but remember that the tool doesn’t make the communicator, the communicator makes the tool communicate.

Profound or what?

Light fuse and stand back…

14 thoughts on “PR: The jack of all trades WILL get the worm…

  1. Amen.

    Yesterday I did a search for a client on blogs in a particular vertical category.

    According to Technorati, most of the top-ranked blogs in that group hadn’t been updated in months.

    In other words, they are most likely dead.

    What does that tell us?

  2. John: I agree

    Todd: I don’t agree :-)

    I do think that it’s important to call this out.

    The longer we treat these things as somehow seperate, the longer it will take to start to see how online and offline channels will ultimately impact the practice of communications – together.

    Any fundamental change in how we communicate driven by online channels will incorporate traditional channels.

    In my opinion we’re doing both a disservice. Of course that’s just my opinion!

  3. I love these little gems! Admittedly I need to take a step back sometimes.

    The future of PR should focus on merging the new online tools with the existing tried and tested. If the glove fits of course.

    P.S I’m writing this from my phone. Not sure if it will publish. Technology eh?

  4. Tom….some of this I absolutely agree with, while some of it is dangerously close to demonstrating the divide that exists in the industry. You know it begs another post.


    Online and offline PR require different strategies, with much of the same roots (know what you’re talking about and to whom your talking – and who they represent).

    But, PR isn’t the PR of old. In fact, it’s why we’re not invited to the table any longer. Too many 21 year olds pitching top tier media, not enough experts in the products/services they represent. There’s no PR for the PR!

    Peter, I just spoke at a Bulldog Advanced PR conference today in L.A. I can guarantee you that the people here (note I refrain from using the word audience) were completely in the dark, but desperate to understand how to merge social media and PR.

    And yes, this is profound, “Tools that make that process more effective are welcome, but remember that the tool doesn’t make the communicator, the communicator makes the tool communicate.”

    But, (there’s always a but) that’s not PR today unfortunately, especially today. That description is you, Todd Defren, me, among others…but not the industry as a whole

    Remember, the “idea” of the original PR2.0 from the mid 90s was a philosophy dedicated to help fellow PR mates grow as professionals, now it is a buzz word…hence the reason for my post in the first place.

  5. Tom: if I’m going to wear a hair shirt in solidarity, are there any nice Irish designs? Maybe with a herringbone weave or some knit styles?


  6. hi tom, you are right and i agree that its the communicator that matters and not the tools, but i think the term PR 2.0 is going to be there for a while now. Even if it does, I don’t think it is too much of a problem. It’s just like a little subset of PR.

  7. I’m with you Tom – not a fan of 2.0. It kind of reminds me of cellulite-reduction cream or lose-fat-while-you-sleep pills. When people are faced with difficult/intractable problems (PR people who simply don’t get how to use ‘social media – humhum another term in debate) they reach for the quick fix. A cream, a pill, a new definition that promises immediate painless relief. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with human behavior (be it eating less/exercising more or actually reading blogs and having an appropriate conversation with individuals), it is very difficult (and I speak from knowledge of both!).

    Brian is putting some real meat behind 2.0 and social media, and I like much of what he has to say. In fact, I think we are stuck with the terms for lack of better ones. But unfortunately, the terms give old-school marketers something to grab hold of to keep their chins above water (or waistlines slim if I stay with the same metaphors) for a little bit longer…

  8. As a current student studying PR, I find this post extremely interesting.
    I have been fortunate enough to have a professor who believes that we need to at least be exposed to things like the SMNR and PR 2.0, but at the same time have also been exposed to more traditional PR methods.
    I can see where the rub lies. On one hand, I understand how certain practitioners of PR would feel that the industry needs to be headed into a more social media friendly area. On the other, I can see why others would feel that it is too much too soon, and without much thought to the old ways of doings things.
    Basically, I’m interested to see how things unfold as I enter my own way into the working world. Thanks to my professors though, I think I will be well-equipped to handle whatever PR’s future holds.

  9. Hi Kate,

    That makes an incredible amount of sense.

    I *am* an advocate of “PR 2.0” – even though I dislike the term.

    These technologies will have a major impact on our profession, but as you have pointed out, I urge pragmatic thinking of which technologies make sense….

    Time will tell us what new channels/tools will have the most acute impact on our professional practice.


  10. I think it’s very short-sighted Tom. You are doing a disservice to the PR industry.

    If New PR or Web 2.0 is just the day job I’ve always done but with a few new buttons to press, what am I and my 599 friends supposed to blog about? And what about the ones hoping to make a few quid out of conferences?

    Talk like this is very disheartening.

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