This month at Search Engine Strategies in Chicago I was on a panel called “Online PR: Where to Next?” Specifically, ten years after the Cluetrain Manifesto, where are we heading? The panel included smart folks like Sally Falkow, Duncan Alney, Andy Beal and Marty Weintraub.
I kicked off the panel with “The Future of Public Relations: What’s Old is New Again” because I felt it was really important in this day and age of online communications that organizations and people understood that public relations (PR) is NOT media relations/blogger relations alone. In fact, that is only 1/7 of the management activities that are associated with PR.
Let’s look at the definition of PR from “Effective Public Relations” by Cutlip, Center and Broom (8th edition, 1999):
“Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.”
The key phrase here that has been forgotten during the age of mass marketing and consumerism is “the publics on whom its success or failure depends.” If publics can make or break your business, wouldn’t it be wise to tap into that?
What is PR?
I mentioned above that media relations (i.e. publicity) was only 1/7 of management activities that are associated with PR. So what are all of the PR activities?
- Publicity (non-controlled media placement)
- Advertising (controlled media placement)
- Press Agentry
- Public Affairs (i.e. Community Relations)
- Issues Management
- Investor Relations
Media/blogger relations equates to “publicity,” not public relations. Most organizations don’t have any issues with getting publicity because they have a well-oiled machine in place. But where they do struggle (or what they’ve forgotten) is the part about establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.
I bet you are surprised (and probably disagree) with advertising being listed. That’s because the first thing people think of when they hear “advertising” is a way to push products, services, etc. In public relations, advertising is used for things like: announcing recalls, class-action lawsuit settlements, or to provide corrective information that the media or bloggers have not provided to the public. But today, in the online world, a lot of these things can be handled on a website or blog, saving a lot of expense. It really depends on who an organization is trying to reach or what’s been mandated by the government.
The Past Is Still With Us.
The idea of people gathering together or being social isn’t anything new. For ages that’s been the case and it’s not going to change anytime soon. If we look back at the 18th century (and, of course, many centuries before), citizens gathered together and spread the word about their causes, politics or store-owners via word of mouth, pamphlets, and demonstrations. Today, people do the same thing, they’ve just moved online.
How PR Can Work For You In Today’s Online World.
- Stop broadcasting.
- Listen to your publics.
- Be found online.
- Communicate with your publics.
- Partner with your publics.
- Tell your story.
- Get people talking.
- Don’t rely on tools. Rely on people.
Words of Wisdom.
“He that speaks much is much mistaken.” …. Benjamin Franklin (18th Century)
“Learning to speak like a human isn’t a parlor trick.” …. Cluetrain Manifesto (20th Century)
- How will you ’speak’ in the 21st Century?
- Will you look at PR differently or will you continue to only focus on the media?
- Will you engage your publics online (and off)?
- Have you always engaged in all aspects of PR?
- Will PR become the frontrunner of marketing?
What else would you add or ask?
P.S. If you haven’t read the Cluetrain Manifesto RUN and pick up a copy soon or read the free online version. You won’t regret it! David Weinberger, co-author, will be joining MarketingProfs as our B2B Forum Keynote Speaker in May 2010 to discuss “What Marketers Are Still Missing: The Power of the New Digital Disorder.”