Richard Bailey ponders whether PR is ideas management – an idea that Stuart Bruce supports. Producing ideas is one of the things that those in public relations do, but is it enough to describe the profession?
Ryan Anderson believes those in PR are struggling more than ever to understand what PR is about. His focus is primarily on media relations (which of course is the most public dimension), where he believes there is a “typical adversarial relationship with the media and a general misconception of PR practitioners as charlatans and liars”.
A long-standing friend of his, on hearing about PR’s role in conversations and empowerment of consumers, responded “Wow. You’re not nearly as evil as I thought.”
One of my CIPR Diploma students last week reported her takeaway thought for the day was that there is a collective responsibility for PR practitioners to stand up for what we do. As Ryan says we need to educate people what PR is and isn’t – starting one friend at a time. Or maybe it should be one blogger and one poor PR at a time.
Over at The Long Tail, Chris Anderson debates the role of public relations (again from the premise that our sole function is the press release and media relations). The belief seems to be that bloggers are independent and don’t need any input from PR – indeed, such contact would spoil a blogger’s “authenticity and the individual voice”. From this perspective – any ideas from PRs are seen as tainted.
Claims of a cultural mismatch between bloggers and PR people are based on a view that “flacks” (a US insult) are happy-clappy publicists or press agents seeking coverage any way possible. Indeed, Anderson says “fundamentally social media is a peer-to-peer medium; bloggers would rather hear from someone doing something cool than from the paid promotional representative for that person. The problem is that the people doing that cool stuff are busy, which is why they pay PR people to do the outreach for them in the first place.”
He goes onto suggest PR should “evolve” from external to internal relations as a coach. Public relations has a long-standing role in internal relations (as well as with other publics), where practitioners facilitate communications and relationships through training and provision of in-house consultancy. I agree this is an area where PR should focus, particularly in the face of new media developments which increase the ability of every employee to engage and affect an organisation’s reputation.
Seth Godin supports the idea of all employees being able “to spread out, to speak out, to blog and to join communities about what they care about, surely there will be better alignment than there is when yet another clueless publicity person sends me yet another piece of spam about her company’s (irrelevant) products.”
There is some naivety in the idea that there should be little if any management of organisational communications, that there should be no expert function involved in building effective relationships or communications, and that bloggers all originate ideas so the professional services offered to offline influencers are no longer needed.
But there is certainly more here to consider than a role for PR as “ideas managers”. I’m quite happy for PR to stand for managing relations with publics – whether that is direct or via intermediaries such as bloggers, employees or whatever. I don’t think we are in need of reinvention, but need a focus on this best practice approach to effective PR.