There has been some great discussion by practitioners and others [Doc Searls and more recently by Ross Mayfield, CEO and founder of SocialText over the question of whether “PR is Dead”, and a particularly good response to the issue by Roland Tanglao , Head Blogger at Streamline in Vancouver.
"I don't believe in public relations. I am not a PR pro and never want to be. I just want people and corporations to communicate in the best possible fashion.
I don't believe in messages.
I don't believe in spin.
I believe in communication.
I believe in conversations.
I believe in relationships.
PR is dead, so let's get rid of it."
Of course, much of what Roland says is right on the mark, personal connections are profoundly important as is having company spokesmen who are passionate about what their companies do. People will trust those whom they know and are more sympathetic when there are problem. Moreover, the best conversations are two-way.
But as a PR practitioner and one who has chosen that title, I must say it’s a pretty cynical view. Pretty cynical, pretty limited and pretty incorrect.
I don’t believe that all PR – or even most – is specious. It serves a purpose and can be presented with as much passion or honesty as any other form of communications. Done well, it can help to inform and position a product or company, raise visibility and credibility that even a large company could not achieve on its own. Poorly executed it is no more effective than any other misused marketing tool, and no more appealing.
Corporate blogs, webnars, ezines, websites, PR and advertising all have a role. Each can be an important channel to a market or segment. This is especially the case with new high-tech products where customers can get overwhelmed by new technologies which promise to transform their world.
To me the issue, however, the basics remain the same: to whom are you selling, what is their problem, how does your product alleviate their pain, how is your company and product different from other vendors or other products who profess to offer the same, etc. By understanding the workings of their market, companies can offer more value, influence perceptions and create a stronger image for their company and products, irrespective the the marketing tool. Business blogging can be incredibly powerful, but it doesn’t replace the other marketing activities, much less kill them off.
Customers don’t react with pleasure to new technology or products rather they resist and run. To gain their attention, much less trust, you must find a way to build a relationship with every resource you can bring to bear. For this reason all of the traditional tools from whitepapers to application stories to press releases, help. These, supported by new arsenal of Internet-based technologies play a critically important role.
Few companies will be able to market their products to their best advantage without some combination of traditional and new tools, even for SocialText and a spokesman as credible as Ross Mayfield. Effective PR is an invaluable weapon in a company’s marketing arsenal. It introduces a company and its products to more people that you will ever be able to meet face-to-face and provide a kind of visibility and credibility that advertising and even blogging can not offer. Effective PR can educate and inform an industry infrastructure, reduce customer fear and uncertainty, provide the company with feedback and make customers and partners more willing to invest. Indeed most companies are unlikey to succeed without it -- in the long term.
PR is not dead, and the reports of its death are more than a bit premature. Rather PR remains an important element in today’s marketing mix, well applied, it can make a real difference.