Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

The PR Hype Cycle

As part of the Global PR Blog Week I have contributed an article entitled Pragmatic Public Relations which suggests that we, as a profession, need to take a long look at how we undertake PR programs today and how that might change over time based on our audience and the tools and channels that are becoming available.

As anyone who has read this blog in the past will know, I’m not shy coming up with advice 🙂 But as part of the preparation for the article I started trying to see how I could map the intersection between all our existing tools and the newer developments.

I came up with the idea of using Gartner Group’s Hype Cycle. Gartner put this graph together to illustrate the maturity of any technology in a given market. I thought it might be a useful, if very subjective way of looking at the technologies PR practitioners will be using today and tomorrow. This of course is terribly non-scientific and very subjective….

I’m very interested in getting people’s thoughts on it. Is it a waste of time and space? Is it accurate or irrelevant?

Gartner Hype Cycle

Here’s the empty hype cycle

There’s a couple of things to note:

  • New technologies start on the left hand side of the graph and typically travel from left to right.
  • Following their introduction tools can be subject to unrealistic hype bringing them to the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”. Once reality sets in these tools then fall into the “Trough of Disillusionment” before emerging at the right hand side where they finally begin to deliver some of the benefits that were originally promised
  • Not everything travels the full cycle, some new technologies simply reach their peak and then disappear without trace
  • It’s not sequential, some new technologies move along the cycle faster than others
  • Finally some technologies will remain at a given level forever

The PR Hype Cycle

So based on that here is the PR Hype Cycle:


The first thing to notice is that our traditional tools such as press conferences, press releases, telephones etc. are mostly collected on the right hand side of the diagram in the Plateau of Productivity section. They all provide well understood features and returns and are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Some traditional elements such as message control or the fax machine are in all probability becoming less important for many practitioners however they do still exist and can be more important for some practitioners than others.

On the extreme left of the diagram you’ll see a whole host of new tools that many believe will have a fundamental impact on Public Relations. These include Citizen Journalism, RSS, Podcasts, and Wikis. As previously mentioned this is where you’ll begin to see differences between industries, for example in technology PR blogs are probably further to the right.

It may surprise you that I’ve put well established tools such as e-mail and databases only emerging from the trough of disillusionment but I have my reasons – we still don’t use them effectively.


So does it make any sense? Is it of any value? There have been a couple of comments so far, I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Written by Tom Murphy

September 22, 2005 at 7:44 am

Posted in General

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