Thursday, August 14, 2008

PR: It ain't broke, but it does need fixing

There have been some wild stabs in the dark (back?) at PR over the last few days - notably from Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble.
Steve Rubel has been questioning the value of PR altogether in a world where we thrill in the discovery of the new for ourselves (we get more of a kick if this experience is NOT mediated).

And I've joined the fray with comments in mutliple locations. It's time to draw them together. (Image by candiceedicnac)

PR ain't broken. At least, it's no more broken than the next way-of-doing-things the mass-media, broadcast world presents us with.

Anything which involves mediation has to be rethought in the context of a world where communities of purpose can form at next-to-no cost - where control is simply routed round by people seeking their own co-created solutions;

PR is no more broken than broadcast media, than the music industry, movies or print.

It's no more broken than traditional visions of economics, politics, education or the law.

ALL need reconstructing to take account of the fundamental shift from a broadcast to a networked world.

To pick on PR is to miss the point. Everywhere there is mediation, the network will disrupt and is beginning to disrupt.

In the case of traditional PR, the kind of stuff that bugs Scoble et al (and frankly any traditional journalist since PR began) is the irrelevant.

PR, when driven from a broadcast mindset, aims for quality at the cost of relevance: A fabulous press release sent out en masse? Spam for everyone for whom it is not relevant. Relevance always beats quality.

PR has to take the same kind of approach as anyone wishing to spread or seed a message in the networked world (hello marketeers, advertisers, politicians, service and product providers?).

It goes a little something like this (those familiar with Why Traditional Ad Models Won't Work in Social Networks, And What Will, may recognise its evolutionary path!). See below. Relax. It's just 10 slides.

This speaks to some of the ideas we kicked around with the notion of P2PR.

But to dismiss traditional PR out of hand is at best link-baiting and at worst commercial suicide.

There's still huge swathes of value to be derived from taking traditional routes, reaching out to those who still broadcast in the hope of reaching their (ok dwindling but) still very large audiences.

No wise PR effort would do without it. And getting back to the basics of good human relationships with your intended broadcaster, so that you know what is relevant for them, will win you prizes here, too.

PR + P2PR = :-)


  1. notice how this meme has swept through the web'o'spere the last few weeks? from my little rant up to the rock-star heroes like steve rubel.

    also notice, the predictability of who said yea or nay, it seemed completely based on ego attachment to one's profession.

    where is truth? change rarely comes from within the system that needs changing ... maybe never. because it means the suicide of one's self-identity. "science proceeds upon funerals" has a ton of truth in it.

    but no worries mate. there is always going to be the lowest common denominator stuff, the new potato chip and its ad campaign including pr. and celebrity management pr. and political spin pr.

    they will last on, simply because most of the planet is still in the old paradigm. heck, in india, you still have little trucks with loudspeakers on them, going through the villages shouting about the sales in the nearby town.

    what mr. cushman is addressing is the leading edge of this game. the guys with the new tech toys who are smart enough to predict the changes coming as a result of wide adaptation of those tools. and he recognizes that the three-card monte pr guys still have a lot of time left, though maybe should think about shaping up, but no rush.

    i agree. most of the world, even the first world, is filled with the less than brilliant. so keep churning out the crap, no problem.

    if your firm dies, you can always get a new job a bit further down the food chain.

  2. boy, the blogger comment system is really really crappy. i would wager it keeps a few writers away. disqus, anyone?

  3. Yes, the comment system is pretty terrible indeed...

    Firstly, I think some of the comparisons you made in your intro are a bit dangerous - especially considering the audience. The claim that "PR is no more broken than the music industry" for example is frightening at best. If fixing PR takes as much time, effort and money as fixing the music industry is going to take, you guys are in some serious trouble.

    Quite to the contrary, I think PR is not broken. There are some big firms living in the past and despite repeated attacks by big-name bloggers, they just don't get it. On the other hand, there are hoards of firms that do get it. They understand that sending blind pitches gets them nowhere. They understand that to ensure they are serving their clients as best they can, evolution is required. And they are evolving.

    As an aside and an odd bit of irony, as I sat here typing a comment defending PR I received an email from a very large firm. Said email accused me of breaking the confidence of a sensitive email... that they never sent me.

  4. wow... now you've left us wanting more!

  5. Heh - Lucky for them I'm not the kind of person who would publicly hang someone out to dry based on one improper action or one tiny mistake. Maybe since I made that known ( firms are more comfortable making mistakes around me...

  6. come on david you really need to get away from blogger ;)

    I'm not the only one who hates it now! personally I think although we're going through a revolution for PR agencies it's going to be more of an evolution.

    Some like wolfstar will move quicker and reap the benefits, and if it kills a few dinosaurs I think nobody is going to complain in the long run


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?