Beyond PR

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.

4 Comments on Blog Post Title

nicolekalagian 19:44 EDT on Apr 23, 2014

I completely agree. Especially when you said, “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.”

PR professionals and experts have so much more opportunity than they did before, especially with the evolution of social media. Once a company or business puts something on their Facebook or Twitter, it is there forever.

Every company needs PR more than ever in order to deal with these problems that arise. I also agree when you said that companies cannot hide the truth anymore. Sooner or later, it will come out and it will have to be dealt with. Having a good PR team is something that is crucial.

Great post!

Susanne Greene 09:45 EDT on Apr 25, 2014

I agree. Social media is transforming public relations, but not killing it. I try and spend a few hours every week researching the latest trends in social media and it is an exciting time for all PR professionals. Each week, I learn something new and incorporate it into our ever evolving social media strategy.

Mary Jane Kinkade 09:27 EDT on May 6, 2014

I see social media as working hand-in-hand with PR. It’s yet another tool in the PR arsenal of tactics and strategies. It gives us addiional ways to reach key influencers, as well as to grow that very important base of third-party advocates for our brands and organizations. Thanks for the post!

Think_Lyndon (@THINK_Lyndon) 16:39 EDT on May 12, 2014

This is a discussion that the industry needs to have – thank you Sarah.

PR is also not publicity, but that is what most PR agencies sell. That, more than data, or the information age, or social media is what is killing PR. There was another survey out in the last couple of weeks that said PR and content marketing were two activities that were perceived to deliver the least commercial value – I’ll find a link and post below. So, to say that content marketing is less effective than PR should not really a comfort for anybody working in public relations. It should also not be something that we tout as the future of the industry [as some of our peers have done].

I would contend that, rather than a golden age, PR is fighting for relevance… mostly because those that practice it have failed to communicate or deliver value.

I would also suggest that earned media is less important than at any time in the last 50 years. Think about it – the average lede gets 15 minutes before dropping off the top spot; 60 minutes and it is off of the front page in some cases. The number of channels has increased exponentially; the volume of content too. The odds that a story runs are worse than ever and we then have to assume that the target audience sees the coverage in the minute/hour/day that it runs. Sure, you can send it directly to people, people can search for it, but that, arguably, is not earned media.

Couple that with an increasing number of journalists that add the “views are not those of my employer” and “RT is not endorsement” disclaimers on their social accounts – and it begs the question why anybody still thinks that earned media is an implied endorsement.

PR isn’t dead, but it’s on life support and there are some companies that want to switch the machine off.

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