Wednesday, April 22, 2009

PR ≠ Media Relations Only

I was reading Heidi Cohen's piece on ClickZ entitled 'PR goes Multichannel' (pretty good overview of how marketers need to start understanding the new PR landscape) and I couldn't ignore the comment someone made at the bottom (it wasn't me):
Way to go on misunderstanding what public relations is about completely, and helping to continue spreading misinformation about the field. What you're talking about is traditional media relations. Media relations... not public relations. Media relations (let's say it again - MEDIA relations) is just one small part of public relations. Public relations as a whole is not losing its effectiveness. In fact it's becoming immensely more important in the social media age, where conversations and reputation management happen in real time. Only those who don't truly understand what public relations entails consider it simply a part of a marketing plan - precisely why marketing folks should stop trying to explain the benefits of public relations which they don't fully understand themselves. You do make a few good points (impressed to see a marketing professional acknowledge that SEO is actually a PR tool), but please stop equating media relations to public relations. That only does readers a disservice.

While the commenter's tone is a bit harsh, the definition of public relations IS SO MUCH BROADER than media relations. I see this time and time again - marketers and even some companies thinking that public relations is just a function of publicity to either raise awareness or promote thought leadership. In essence PR = media relations (press coverage).

The backlash against public relations professionals for the past few years is due to the fact that some agencies (like companies) and independent practitioners are struggling to adapt in the new social media landscape. It's not enough to know what these social media tools are (although that's a good start!). PR Pros now need to know how to suggest, develop, create, and technically maintain relevant content to enhance an organization's brand awareness and/or market share across the social media platforms. As I am very fond of telling my clients: Setting-up/establishing social media platforms is inexpensive, but development and creation of compelling content and sustained engagement is not. Companies will have to devote resources across deployed strategic communication tactics and tools to ensure that they not only receive a high ROI, but they ACTUALLY move towards accomplishing their business development goals.

Trolling for ink does nothing but infuriate the journalists and publications companies hope to influence. GONE are the days of dialing for dollars and sending out a pitch via e-mail to a large media list because those are the contacts your media database says are relevant (Reminder: Always vet the lists, read the blogs/articles and do your research BEFORE pitching). Even the well crafted pitch and press release (still relevant BTW), need to be reconsidered and revamped to engage with relevant stakeholders across different communication platforms.

To me the biggest misconception in our industry is that public relations is just about publicity and not about sustained engagement (that why I don't like the word "BUZZ"). Print and even online press coverage will not continue to yield the results companies want in terms of engagement and awareness with target audiences.

Print and trade publications are not dead (yet) and a pure social media strategy may or may not yield the results a company wants ("If a tree falls," analogy). Bottom line: A BALANCED marketing communications strategy is a company/organization's best bet to achieving its goals. There is no "right" one answer per se, but there are best practices and case studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of utilizing ALL aspects of public relations and marketing strategies to achieve desired business outcomes.

1 comment:

tjpip said...

Great post! I couldn't agree with you more. I have to say that the belief that PR is all about garnering publicity has made working in PR and being successful an uphill battle.
As an employee in a nonprofit organization, I do a lot of work in media relations. I think it is important to build relationships there. But, I agree with you that media relations is only one facet of a successful and balanced integrated communications plan.
Before I started the position I'm in now, I think I would have fallen into the press agentry view of PR, but as I wrote in my recent blog post ( through the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) process has given me a greater respect and understanding of the important work PR professionals do in utilizing all communications tools available to them to achieve the desired outcomes.