Maybe we're defining PR incorrectly?

When I searched for a definition of Public Relations I found the following description:

The art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public.

As broad stroke definitions go, it’s not bad.  I’d probably add managing an individual’s or organization’s communication with the public.

The Internet opens a range of opportunities for our profession – and a range of challenges.  The one thing the Internet does is remove the elements of security and secrecy that may have once been a part of our daily lives.  Our control over information is dissolving and we must adapt.

The other change the Internet brings is that is opens your communication to a far wider audience than ever before.  Whereas in the past you might have screwed up with a pitch and annoyed a journalist, it pretty much stopped there.

Today, screw up and there’s no guarantee that your pitch will not end up being the joke du jour on media websites. That is a sobering thought and one that should guide you when you’re putting together a pitch. Of course sometimes you’ll be a victim even if it’s not warranted.  Welcome to 2003.

What staggers me is “PR” people who go out of their way to look ridiculous and set themselves and their employer/client up for online crucifiction.

In the past we’ve covered these false posters to popular message boards extolling the virtue of some client or other, using slang and trying to pose as a regular visitor when it’s clear they’re not.  Well it seems these intelligent “Online PR” professionals are now turning their magnificent efforts to weblogs comments.

You can spot them easy enough.  There’s a discussion on watches for example, and there in the comments under the posting someone writes:

 “Hey, you should try out the XCT500 from those great guys over at Acme, it includes feature blah. feature blah, costs under $7,500 and if you sign-up at their website they will sell it to you for $4,000.  I have been using the XCT500 for over six months and I can tell you it is singularly the leading, digital, outdoor, multi-sport time device out there. Check it out at http: //www.acmetimedevices.cs”

You see that’s not PR ladies and gentlemen.  There is no relationship being created, managed or enhanced by this activity.  This is not creating dialogue. This is comment spam.

Jeremy Pepper covers this today and points to Dan Gillmor’s plea to PR people to behave on his weblog. Steve Outing at Poynter follows up with his views on the matter:

“The rules are simple enough: Be on topic when you post a PR pitch, and keep it short and useful to the audience.”

I’d go further than Steve.  It is unethical PR practice to be posing as someone you are not. 

If your contribution to the topic is relevant then you should declare your interest up front and center.  If you don’t think posting that information is appropriate then your views (or spam) are not appropriate either.

We are the masters of creating and managing communication. You are not in a Bond movie, you are not a trained practitioner of industrial espionage. If you want to create long-standing, meaningful and profitable relationships be straight about your angle.

The muppets who contine to post as “consumers” do you no favors. Oh and they can track your IP address.  There’s no place to hide.

It's Fall, let's re-examine an old Chestnut

MarketingProfs latest missive includes an opinion piece on the death of advertising written by Harry Hoover.  In effect it’s a redux on the Ries’ book from last year.

“I�ve been rereading The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR by Al and Laura Ries. It is their book that has moved me from having a mere suspicion of advertising�s demise as a brand builder to total conviction that it is dead.”

I posted my thoughts on this premise and the book last October, but I’ll post a quick recap to save you clicking.

Marketing is a multi-dimensional discipline and good marketing is hard.

The reason we have a whole host of professions undertaking marketing campaigns is that for the majority of organizations, (there are always exceptions) success is based on successful implementation of multiple campaigns such as PR, Advertising, Direct Marketing etc.

In my experience no one discipline can meet the business goals of the majority of firms. This is where the idea that Advertising in all it’s varieties is dead, fails.  It’s not. The marketing mix may change but advertising is going nowhere folks, get over it.

Using as an example of how advertising fails is ridiculous.  Here’s why.

Most of those failed dot coms also spent extraordinary amounts of money on Public Relations. So is PR dead? No.

A good ethical company, with good products, a focus on customer service, a target market and smart marketing will succeed.  Get one of those elements wrong and you could be in trouble.

I’m delighted PR’s influence continues to grow, but let’s be realistic.


Some PR news from around the web

 The Council for Excellence in Government has released a study [PDF] analyzing how US Government business and issues are covered in the media. It was published in July but I hadn’t seen it before and it has some fascinating findings.  How about this for a start, since 1981, stories concerning Federal government have fallen by 31 percent on TV and 12 percent in the national print media.

 PR Week profiles some high powered Public Relations professionals this week.

 PR Watch is covered by fellow self appointed watchdog In these Times.


Going through my web logs this week I noticed two referrals to PR Opinions followed a Google search for “PR Bunnies“… what’s that all about?

UK government drives PR best practice

There’s been a very interesting development in the UK.  It seems the UK Department of Trade and Industry is publishing a report next month on “Best Practice across the UK PR industry”.

The report is being prepared with the UK’s professional PR body the Institute of Public Relations.

More on the report from the UK Times.

“Practising its trade, the IPR dubs it �this ground breaking piece of work� and claims that not only will it raise standards but �growth and productivity�. The Government, having failed to stop the shrinking of our manufacturing industry or to raise productivity, must be getting desperate if it now believes the key may lie with public relations.”

Technology: Plus ca change, plus c�est la meme chose

John Markoff has been around for quite some time writing about technology in the trades and then moving on to newpapers and for the past ten years the New York Times.

The Online Journalism Review has an intriguing interview with Markoff asking his views on new technology and how it will affect journalism.

His pragmatism is refreshing, though I note he’s already had some negative feedback from some notable bloggers.

He represents the alternate end of the spectrum from these people and I think we’ll find he’s right about many things.

Technology follows well worn paths of adoption and even though changes happen faster and more frequently these days, they still don’t happen as soon as everyone thinks.

If that were the case IBM wouldn’t still be making a lot of money selling mainframes.  And they do.

Understanding Blogging

I just read a piece that takes a very common sense approach to the opportunities and issues of blogs written by Perry De Havilland.

It is a realistic piece that points out that bad blogging is worse than no blogging at all and that:

“Similarly, some companies will never have the necessary corporate culture to actually let their employees talk to the public without surrounding them with a deadening phalanx of PR consultants and lawyers who sanitize every word they type. Just having a blog is not enough� you must allow the writers to blog correctly.”

He’s absolutely right.  There’s a lot of potential, but the simple fact is that it’s not for everyone.

There’s still a huge delta in understanding of what blogs are, what they’re not and what they are useful for. Blogs are still not mainstream and I think it’ll be at least another year. It’s popular.  But popular is a far way from mainstream. 

This dovetails nicely with a post from Karlin Lillington recently where she tackled the closed nature of the blog pioneers.

“This is the side of writing a weblog that sits really, really uncomfortably with me. I have heard one of blogging’s inner circle just not get a question from a neo-blogger who complained during a seminar that entry to blogging’s higher ranks was not, as the speaker proposed, due to merit but mostly because other A-list bloggers decide to link to you, thus perpetuating an inner circle (or thru a deliberate attempt to heighten your hitcount by writing to woo the googlebots). The speaker’s denial that this was so was backed by the example that if the speaker (whose blog was extremely popular) linked to the questioner’s blog, the questioner would find herself amongst the chosen in no time at all because all sorts of other people would then be interested in her blog, the speaker having given her talent the needed exposure. “Well, exactly,” she said in exasperation, and the speaker beamed, feeling he’d refuted her point and brought her into his blogging-is-the-new-E fold.”


You see PR people can be useful too..

Mark Glaser at the Online Journalism Review has an interesting article looking at how PR people can be a real asset to journalists.  It’s a nice change from the usual “Flacks are rubbish” comments.

“I have a dirty little secret. I like PR people. OK, I don’t like all of them, but I must admit that a lot of publicists have helped me in my quest to speak to the right person, set up an interview, give me background info. This might sound strange to fellow journalists (or may secretly ring true), but a few of my best story ideas came from flacks.”

[Link courtesy of Jeremy Pepper]