TALKING ‘BOUT AN EVOLUTION (of PR, that is)

PR is in a state of flux. It’s teetering on the edge of what it was, and what it can be.

It’s opportunistic. As professionals, this is a time for us to break all of the stereotypes and “bad PR” that our industry has garnered (flaks, manipulators, schmoozers) and shape the future of our trade.

This morning, Sarah Evans posed a call to action to PR pros, “Jot down (or type) your perception on the current state of PR.” Well, thank you, Sarah, for finally giving me the motivation to pull this post out of my head and put pen to paper (err…key to screen…?)

Social media is allowing us to get back to the very essence of our craft – managing the communication between an organization and its publics by building rapport with key stakeholders – in a more meaningful and authentic way than ever before.

In her post on June 30, Beth Harte backs up the claim that “PR has never been truly authentic.” Think about it. We write articles for our clients and slap another person’s name on it so they can get the byline. We draft press releases and quotes that can be published for the public to read it as another person’s word. We craft key messages and train our clients on speaking points and ways to always incorporate these messages into interviews and conversation as though it’s natural.

To me, the very act of pitching any of this to a journalist has always felt terribly inauthentic.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALLOWING US TO EVOLVE

Sometimes in order to embrace innovation we need to blend it with existing methodologies and processes (what we know and how we do it) to eventually propel change, technology and comprehension across the bell curve of adoption.Brian SolisDictionary Series - Religion: evolution

Everything evolves with time. Why are some PR pros so defensive of this natural progression? Technological advances are evolving (and revolutionizing) the medical field, the music industry, e-commerce – why should marketing/communications/public relations be any different?

And, let me state for the record that this evolution doesn’t necessarily make our job easier. In fact, if done correctly, it’s requiring us to take a more strategic approach. Clearly define our audiences. Tailor messages to individuals. And, (gasp) engage in ongoing, open, dialogue.

Using social media platforms, we can and are:

Evolving the press release.

Earlier this summer, Kane Consulting invited Jason Kinztler, founder of Pitch Engine to Minneapolis to deliver the keynote address of our PR 2.0 conference (an homage to the wonderful works of Brian Solis). During his keynote address, Jason asked, “Is the press release dead?” His response, “No, but it is evolving.”

Social media releases allow us to deliver a message in an optimized package (including images, podcasts, and additional resources) to add momentum to the conversation. Instead of blasting journalists on the wire, we can share the message unobtrusively (and, ideally with a well-targeted pitch) to bloggers, journalists, web writers, and even the public. And, with optimization and social sharing features, the message keeps on moving.

Evolving the pitch.

As a young(-ish) independent PR pro not working for a notable agency, I started to get very frustrated with placements always going to the big dogs. (Again, let’s think about Beth’s argument for how authentic we’ve been.) Enter social media. It has leveled the playing field. It gives us an ambient awareness of what journalists are interested in or working on. It enables the opportunity to engage with journalists, bloggers and influencers on everything from industry issues to taking the dog to the groomer. And guess what? When I have a relevant pitch, I’ve already established a rapport with this person.

(Easier or faster than blasting a release across the wire? Hell no. More effective in the long run? Hell yes.)

Evolving Measurement.

I’ve already argued that press reports, and the old-school way of measuring PR efforts, don’t translate to social media. How can it? If we’re evolving the press release and the pitch, and creating momentum through Social Media Optimization, the standards by which we monitor, report and calculate ROI must evolve. KD Paine has long been a thought leader and advocate for evolving measurement standards and looking at things like increased market share rather than trying to calculate the number of impressions and the ad equivalency of a blog or a Tweet. Additionally, PRSA is working to issue agreed upon standards (to which Katie also is contributing).

So, what is my perception on the current state of PR?

It’s evolving, and evolving at an incredibly fast and exciting pace. Incredible thought leaders have emerged, and we have the privilege and opportunity to contribute to the evolution – perhaps the revolution – of the very definition and techniques of the trade.

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5 Responses to TALKING ‘BOUT AN EVOLUTION (of PR, that is)

  1. @TrishSkram says:

    Very well said! I too, believe SM is allowing us to evolve as PR professionals. A revolution indeed!

    Best, @TrishSkram

  2. mkedave says:

    Nice blog. Can’t wait to read more. To me public relations, as a definition, won’t evolve. But the means by which we manage public image, or maintain favorable public image, (the art or practice of public relations) will always evolve. Change is always constant. Social media isn’t allowing us to evolve. We, as a public, are forcing new communications (new methods, new channels, new groups, new tools, even new vernacular).

    I believe that what’s most fascinating, is how long it’s taken traditional media (TV, radio and print news) to assert their leadership and expertise into the social media sphere. This will be something to watch, and I’m confident that something new will be innovated by what we thought used to be the giants of traditional media.

  3. Beth Harte says:

    Kary,

    A wonderful post…and not because you talked about my post! 😉 This is a conversation that needs to be had over and over until it’s crystal clear.

    “As a young(-ish) independent PR pro not working for a notable agency, I started to get very frustrated with placements always going to the big dogs.”

    HA! Did it take you, like me, a while to learn that there is NO separation of church & state, er, I mean advertising & editorial?? Once I learned that I always sent releases to my ad sales person to be sure they understood it was their role to get me ink too. And if they didn’t, I could just as easily take away their ad sales. Is that authentic? Nope! Editorial CAN and IS bought…every day and has been for YEARS!

    Social media, when used to develop/manage relationships, changes the whole PR engagement process…we don’t need to use the media. Now, that’s not to say the media doesn’t have a place. However, PR/communications/marketing folks need to understand the playing field, how it’s evolved, and to be VERY strategic about how they play the game. It’s easy to get burnt these days with a simple misstep.

    Looking forward to more great insights from you and Kane Consulting.

    Beth Harte
    Community Manager, MarketingProfs
    @bethharte

  4. Minnesota Monday – Communications Bloggers Posts From Last Week…

    Interesting posts from Minnesota commmunications bloggers for the week ending 9/19/09.
    ……

  5. Kary Delaria says:

    Great comments!

    Kudos, Beth, for once again, telling it like it is. With advertising, at least readers see, point blank that someone paid for them to see the message. The pay-to-play game is all too prevalent and like you’re saying, social media forces us to be authentic and strategic in our process.

    mkedave – Your comment that change is constant and it’s the practice, not the definition that’s evolving really got me thinking. Like Beth said, the playing field has evolved. We need to take note of that. And, it is and has changed the way we do our job. If the definition of PR remains the same, it’s time for a new definition that defines this more authentic, strategic way in which we engage with our audiences, with or without the media.

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