Public Relations is a Four Letter Word
Since when did Public Relations become a four letter word? Shhh…between you and me – I think Ad agencies have been whispering that in the ears of marketing managers for the last 20 years.
I must admit the term PR, and being considered a “PR guy,” has never sat well with me. Having grown-up in the 80s, PR guys were often thought of as shady individuals who got paid to spin a story or even lie to the public to protect a company’s reputation. Thankfully, years of hard work alongside some very bright and dedicated colleagues has taught me otherwise.
That said, increasingly I’ve been asked to remove the term “public relations” from plans, programs and events to describe our services. We continue to hear statements from clients such as, “the boss doesn’t like PR, doesn’t think it’s worth the money - but we love the program, it makes sense – just please change the name.” Talk about feeling good about your career choice.
Nevertheless, there must be something brewing, since over the last few years communications agencies have made a consolidated effort to eliminate the word PR and rebrand themselves as “integrated communications” rather than risk being relegated to “PR firm” status. Now, I realize with the advent of digital and social media, convergence and integration makes sense to broaden an agency’s service offerings - but I’m convinced there is more to this than meets the eye.
I think that years of profit taking by large international PR firms, ambiguous metrics, young and often poorly trained account staff, and the over segmentation of the media environment have all conspired to make PR synonymous with questionable ROI in the minds of some executives. In an economic climate that demands an accounting for every penny, who the heck wants to defend a program that may or may not yield measurable results –right?
Furthermore the explosion of digital media and Citizen Jane journalism has created a sense that anyone with a little talent and some resources can earn publicity, create a video that goes viral, or develop a website – and to some extent that’s true.
Despite the trend to rebrand the industry, the fact remains that the industry needs to better merchandize its ability to plan and execute strategic programs that influence and change behaviors in ways that other forms of marketing and communications simply cannot.
So why do you need a PR firm?
The sooner marketing managers and corporate executives embrace the importance of using communications strategies and platforms that connect to their audiences in credible, authentic and creative ways, the sooner they will begin to realize the true value of the discipline.
Yes, just about anyone can create publicity, but only highly skilled professionals can deliver messaging in ways that foster legitimacy, credibility and brand trust. In a very uncertain world where messages can get lost and misinterpreted in a millisecond, and everything private is public, the need for thoughtful strategic vision, planning and execution is paramount.
Arguably, no viral video, ad, or direct mail piece can take a brand to these lofty places like PR when it’s done right. Oh and by the way…those lofty places I mentioned are where today’s 20, 30 and 40 somethings want to be. These are the traits that are creating brand loyalty, or what some like to call ROI.
Tell me what you think. Is PR dead or finally being reinvented?