Is THE PRACTICE OF Public Relations really A done Deal?
Guest blogger Sandra Nomoto of Vancouver-based Conscious PR weighs in…
In the last few years, people have been saying that the Public Relations practice is dying. In fact, Robert Phillips, author of Trust Me, PR is Dead, declared the practice “dead” after a career spanning 23 years, eight of them working as a President for the largest PR firm in the world, Edelman.
After I put off reading the book for a year, I finally took the plunge and was surprised to find myself agreeing with most points in the book. But before I go into all that, we should define what PR is and how it relates to Marketing.
PR AS THE NEW MARKETING
I have been saying for years that instead of PR dying, it’s become the “new Marketing.” With the exception of direct mail and sales promotions, every Marketing Communications touchpoint can now serve public interest and involve a customer responding directly to a company’s call to action.
Marketing teams can no longer just think about push campaigns, but rather what’s going to engage their audiences the most. When I participate in PR chats on Twitter, I’m surprised to see that peoples’ examples of “Best PR campaigns” are simply advertising campaigns that have a good message. Not necessarily PR, but Marketing campaigns integrating PR tactics into them. Many marketing practices are now blended together.
PR AS PART OF CSR
Now, onto the Corporate Social Responsibility part of my premise. In Trust Me, PR is Dead, Phillips iterates that PR will be replaced by open, honest, and explicit relationships between a company and its customers, a sort of “citizen capitalism” relationship. Leaders will earn trust through honesty, transparency, and accountability, and businesses will only be able to achieve success through social responsibility, becoming a “social movement corporation.”
A big part of PR is the concept of Internal Relations and how employees engage with each other and the outside world. In the era of transparency and workers wanting more than just a place to earn a paycheque, what goes on inside a company is becoming just as important as the stories they share externally with their target customer. Enter CSR.
Last month, I presented on the concepts of CSR and Public and Media Relations, and my research on CSR reaffirmed what I’d read in Phillips’ book. Companies must not only have CSR policies or programs, they need to implement these through engaged employees. Otherwise the CSR plan is just a document, and disengaged employees could potentially breed bad stories for media (think Glass Door ratings).
In PR strategist and author James Hoggan’s latest book, I’m Right, You’re An Idiot, he talks about his observations and insights following his 30+ year PR career. Like Phillips, he argues that in this age of excessive messaging and ego, we should get back to basics and learn how to connect, engage with, and genuinely care for each other in order to practice good business and move the world forward.
This idea of human love before PR is pretty wild, but also foundational. Companies that have genuinely integrated CSR and take care of their workers will have employees that become ambassadors for their companies. Authentic stories are then amplified through the employee network. Related story
RE-LEARNING HOW TO FORM RELATIONSHIPS
Today, instead of clients asking us to help them with social media, they manage their channels in house, understanding that their own voice is the best one to represent their brand.
The Media Relations aspect of PR still remains a mystery to businesses. I find that companies are aware that it takes relationships with media in order to get good story placement, and this is a big part of our client service. Unlike other companies: we don’t use news releases. We target messages to each person, make phone calls, and use Twitter or whichever means of communication they prefer.
Even if PR tasks get swallowed by other departments within companies, media relations is one of those practices that you just can’t just manage off the side of your desk or assign to an intern. It’s so much more than having a media list; it’s being able to pick up the phone and have a real conversation with a media person. Not leaving a message on voice mail. Relationships, baby.
While it’s easy to say that PR is already dead, without good relationships – the basis of good communication – it will be very hard to change the status quo and create a world where all will prosper.
If building relationships with media interests you, register for Conscious Public Relations’ Be Your Own PR Star in 90 Days online course and use the code SEEDS10 for 10% off.
A fellow B Corporation, Conscious Public Relations Inc.’s mission is to positively change what we see in the media and online by passionately embodying Positive Relations in all aspects of our work and lives.
If you’d like to learn more about James Hoggan’s approach to PR, join Diana from Seeds Consulting at the Whistler Chamber’s Power Lunch on October 27.