I wish techies would stop stereotyping PR

I’m so tired of reading Robert Scoble criticise PR people en masse – here’s his latest: PR-less launch kicks off a stack overflow of praise

I totally agree with his viewpoint that  should should build “PR by building a great service and turn your users into your PR agent” and there’s an element of truth in his claim:

Believe me, we all will hear about your product if it really does rock. There’s no reason to go crazy with a PR firm if you build something that people want.

However, the cited organisation has just demonstrated effective public relations by enabling positive, active publics to be formed through relationship building strategies. 

Robert seems to have only ever experienced the press agentry side of PR that is all about pitching and spamming influencers.  This has given him a one-sided view of what PR is all about, and unfortunately that enables constant sniping though his blog to perpetuate the idea that PR is all about spin and control. 

There is a role for PR in supporting marketing initiatives (which seems to be the main aspect of PR that Scobleizer berates ie in relation to new companies, products and services in the tech sector).  This includes helping organisations understand how to ensure key influencers, innovators and early adopters hear about initiatives, especially if they rock. 

PR plays many roles in organisations, for example, in facilitating communications for those who are best served to engage with influencers.  That is commonly engineers and designers in the case of motor industry PR and specialist magazine journalists.  The PR people can get out of the way in such discussions, but most organisations benefit from expert counsel and appropriate materials, as well as the wider perspective that good PR people can offer.

Also, if a designer or engineer spends all his/her time engaging with external influencers, there comes a point when they cease to focus on the day job and actually become a full-time communicator.  Hence, why many PR practitioners may have such backgrounds.

Just because PR isn’t overtly seen working in this more sophisticated way, the likes of Scoble equate the practice entirely with pushy PR agencies.  I wouldn’t stereotype all techies or geeks by their most extreme behaviour or bad habits, so why can’t they give PR a break and realise there is more to the profession than what Scoble writes?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “I wish techies would stop stereotyping PR”

  1. Seems to me that Scoble needs to focus his ire. PR is made up of much, much more than flogging products. His concern seems to be the over-hyping that is seen within product-related Marketing PR. Fair enough.

    However, that’s just a slice of all that is “PR”. By painting all PR with a broad brush he actually does a disservice to areas such as Investor Relations, Crisis Communications, Corportate PR and Corp Social Responsibility, Issues and Reputation Management, Social Media Marketing Communications, Public Affairs and Government Advocacy … all of which can be considered to fall under the PR umbrella.

  2. Heather, I commented on this already on another blog, but I like yours more so I’m going to comment again.
    I’ve been on an anti-agency rant since I started in this biz. There’s a host of reasons why agency is probably not for most organizations. Maybe it’s because I come from a psych background that I admire Bernays’ early PR campaigns, though they are undoubtedly what has contributed to the stigma that PR is spin.
    The thing about Schoble is that the people who flock to his blog (whether impressed or pissed off) are doing so because of PR– the attention to his blog is the result of organic PR efforts.

  3. People might be flocking to his blog but I wouldn’t have thought his aim was for us to use him as a platform to extol the virtues of our profession. It works rather well for promoting ourselves and our professionalism as we counter his comments with quantifiable evidence that he is wrong.

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