Beware the PR moniker…

News that a conference organizer in Ireland was hit with a ‘cease and desist’ by CMP Media over the usage of the term Web 2.0 in the title of an event they are running in Cork [Disclaimer: Microsoft are the event sponsor] is a good illustration of the danger of monikers. What have CMP done to deserve the legal right to the term “Web 2.0” as it applies to conferences? Nothing. But then the term Web 2.0 is loaded. Part of me thinks it’s a clever collective term for some really exciting online developments, while the cynical part of me sees “Web 2.0” as simply a marketing play to focus excitement around those same Internet technologies for a run at “Internet Boom 2.0”.

Something that concerns me far more however is the term “PR 2.0”. Now this is a far more heinous development. PR 2.0 is a bad thing. Why?

Well first an foremost let’s define PR 2.0. I assume that the term is meant to be used as a collective term for the impact that many of the Web 2.0 technologies and channels will/are having on communications.

The danger of a term like PR 2.0 is manyfold.

First it equates PR with the technology. This is, in my opinion, incorrect. This isn’t about technology, this is about how people are/will use the technology. It’s about how these technologies change how people communicate. But it is NOT about technology per se.

Secondly the moniker 2.0 implies that something is coming that replaces what went before (and by extension implies that what went before was not effective). This again is incorrect. What we’re seeing is evolution not revolution. Tried and tested techniques such as face-to-face meetings, conference calls, e-mail, post and even the much maligned press release aren’t going away. Traditional media relations, internal communications, investor relations etc. these continue to grow today. What we’re seeing is the gradual addition of some new tools and techniques to our existing toolset… not a replacement. Show me the practitioner only using new tools and I’ll show you an unhappy client…

This was brought home to me from a load of PR conferences that I’ve recently being attending and speaking at. There’s a lot of interest in these new technologies, there’s a lot of interest in how our audience is changing. However, there is also reality. The fact is that outside Silicon Valley and the technology business our traditional tools remain king. In my opinion now is the time for practitioners to learn about the new tools, to understand how they might effect their audience, to trial, measure and review the tools. But we are years away from these tools being given equal billing alongside the tried and tested PR tools. That’s the reality.

PR 2.0 represents a worrying growth in the echo chamber effect of the PR blog community. There’s too much inward facing debate and not enough pragmatism.

PR consists of a wide diversity of audiences, tools, grographies, cultures and languages. If we’re serious about providing guidance on how new tools fit with our existing services then we need to be realistic.

So let’s stop looking to throw the baby out. Instead let’s focus our energy on how people are changing how they find, use and share information. Let’s focus on how we make the most of these new tools alongside the daily grind.

PR 2.0? I wonder how long before I get the cease and desist… bring it on.