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Public Relations is Dead, Long Live PR

November 23, 2010

From time to time the assertion that public relations is dead raises it’s ugly head. The advent of the digital realm, especially the emergence of social media platforms, has seen a shift in focus from PR to marketing in a desperate bid to capture this audience of cashed up, tech savvy Gen Y. The question is, how effective is this strategy?

Let’s break down a couple of these assumptions.

First of all, what is social media other than a massive online barbecue? Social networks are design to have friends and colleagues group together and engage in conversation. They encourage discussion on every and any topic you can think of, be that the news, scientific breakthroughs or celebrity gossip – the only think missing is the beer and snags. In short, they are driven by word-of-mouth.

People do NOT engage in social networks to look at ads. The movie “The Social Network” goes to great lengths to point out one of the main reasons Facebook is cool is because of the lack of advertising. There is no question some advertising strikes a cords and because a point of discussion but the sheer excitement of this demonstrates that these ads are the exception, not the rule.

Why then would you engage a marketer whose speciality lies in advertising to develop social media strategies over a PR professional whose career is based on publicity generated by word-of-mouth?

Secondly, Advertising to Gen Y is particularly difficult, they have an innate ability to tune out when it comes to anyone telling them what they should be buying. Conversely, they are particularly susceptible to being driven by what is cool. The difference here is between an advertiser telling them something and their friends communicating with them – advertising vs PR.

It should also be pointed out that the online audience isn’t simply Gen Y. A survey of 19 different social media networks by Pingdom demonstrates that the majority of users are, in fact, over 35.

The PR industry is the perfect foundation to leverage social media, the only thing holding their success back are the PRs themselves.

The role of the PR needs to change from concentrating on generating media releases and schmoozing ‘A List’ journalists to embracing the new tools at their disposal. A well constructed and properly resourced Online Newsroom can help with the distribution of news releases, photos and videos leaving the PR professional to concentrate on developing effective communication strategies (that include online media), instead of marketing driven campaigns.

PR is not only alive and well, it’s in the box seat to become the most important department in any company – long live PR.

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