This is the first in a three-part series on what PR professionals need to do to keep the industry alive.
Most agencies (advertising, social, search, design, digital) realize that inbound marketing isn’t just some concept waiting to get trumped by the next fad. It’s actually a comprehensive, forward-thinking type of marketing that puts the power in the consumers’ hands. I know this can be scary for some, and that may explain why not everyone is as excited about inbound marketing as they should be.
PR agencies have all the makings of successful inbound marketers (in fact, some could argue that public relations professionals were the original inbound marketers), but for some reason they just don’t seem to get it. Rather than integrating their practices to keep up with the competition, they are choosing to stay in the background and focus on less competitive areas like crisis communications, social monitoring and CSR.
For the past few years people have actually been saying that PR as we know it is dead. Rather than adjusting to the new world of journalism, many PR agencies are content to sit on the sidelines and wither away while other firms take their business. Which makes no sense, because public relations is the industry most similar to inbound marketing.
It’s an interesting conundrum, and a topic that (hopefully) will be debated at SXSW Interactive by Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks fame and Scott Baradell of Idea Grove/Media Orchard. (For those of you in Dallas, Scott will also be speaking on this topic at the Social Media Club on Thursday.)
First, a Little Bit of PR History
The official origins of PR date back about 100 years, but PR has been practiced as far back as ancient Rome. Men like Ivy Lee, Edward Bernays and P.T. Barnum made the profession legitimate in the early 1900s by promoting businesses to the public through media placements and events.
In its heyday, public relations dominated the field of journalism. Reporters relied on PR professionals to give them information and front-page stories were big wins. Today, however, journalists have learned how to find news for themselves, thanks to the 24/7 news cycle driven by the Internet and social media. They don’t need public relations contacts to get information for their story, they can do it all by themselves.
Public Relations is Having a Mid-Life Crisis
Rather than fighting for their spot in the new world of journalism, public relations professionals seem content to let other agencies edge them out. In a time of transparency and sharing information, many corporate PR departments keep a tight lid on their company’s information and do not welcome journalists asking questions, a far cry from the origins of PR.
And the creative agencies aren’t much different from the corporate departments. Sure, they may have a little more freedom with their clients, but for the most part they stick to the outdated idea of relying on media contacts and staged events to measure their success instead of integrating inbound marketing tactics into their strategies like everyone else.
It’s Not Over – Yet
PR may be on life-support, but there’s still time for an eleventh-hour miracle. Check tomorrow’s post to learn what PR professionals need to do to get back in the game.