Apr 23, 2014

PR is Alive & Well In the Information Age

Is PR dead?   According to a post on Marketing Profs today titled How the Information Age Killed Public Relations… and What You Can Do About It, “…Edward Bernays’s flavor of PR is dying, and we’re in the process of watching a whole new era of marketing rise from the ashes.”

According to a recent study sponsored by InPowered and conducted by Nielsen, content marketing is 88% less effective than public relations, due in large part to the outsize influence earned media wields over the public.    Why? It’s simple. Earned media – defined as content created by credible third party experts – consistently provided more benefit to brands than did user generated or branded content.

Source: InPowered & Neilsen

Source: InPowered & Neilsen

Arguably, earned media is more important than ever.  It drives social buzz, has a powerful influence on search ranking, and holds significant sway with audiences, and last time I looked, PR owns earned media generation.

But earned media isn’t the sole preoccupation of PR.  The information age has transformed reputation and influence.  If we’re assessing the health and viability of PR,  we need to ask a couple more questions.

Is reputation management dead? 

Heavens, no, and it’s more important — and visible—than ever.  Online reviews and social buzz have immediate impact on brands today, and can have persistent long-tail effects digitally.  Reputation management is an increasingly complex and vitally important practice.

Do influencers matter?

Any communicator worth their salt knows the value of the influencer.  How do you influence your brand’s influentials?  Building relationships with key media, bloggers and analysts  – the emerging practice of influencer relations – is the cornerstone of building visibility for a brand.

Fact is, PR continues to evolve, and it’s not marketing.  If anything, the information age has created myriad opportunities for public relations practitioners.  I’d argue that we’re entering a golden age for PR.

Today’s PR pros are charged with building brand authority and credibility, devising reputation management strategies and generating the relevant earned media on which strong digital brands are based.     And they’re doing all of this in real time, marshaling and deploying resources, experts and messaging proactively, getting in front of crisis before and finding opportunities for the brands they represent.

Public relations does have a PR problem, and that problem is exacerbated every time a brand or agency engages in a campaign that isn’t authentic.  We are living in an age of radical transparency, and whitewashing unsavory stories doesn’t work.  The truth will out, and it will be ugly for the brand that is attempting to hide it.

But it’s silly to say the profession is dead.  From my point of view, the rapidly-changing discipline of PR only grows more important for brands and organizations as the media and information markets continue to fragment.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

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