Your Turn: What Can We Do Better in Public Relations?

Jeremiah Owyang’s recent Tweet about a question he was asked during a briefing – “What can we do better?” – made me think this is a question we should be asking the industry more often. Of course, we have regular discussions with our clients about what we, as an agency, can be doing better. But as rumors of the PR industry dying continue (by the way, that’s been tossed around for years now), we thought we’d ask you, readers. PR isn’t dying – rather, it’s changing. But change is good – and we want to hear your thoughts on how PR should evolve and improve.

http://prblog.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/pr_two_point_oh.jpg

It seems there are a lot of opinions out there about what PR is doing wrong or failing at, but very often these complaints are hollow – there aren’t specifics around what companies would like to see more of other than “media coverage.” So how can we as an industry improve? What do you think PR professionals could do better or differently? If you’ve got an opinion on the subject, here’s what we’d love to hear from you:

- What do you think PR professionals most need to improve or change? (We’d love to hear perspective from journalists, business owners, CMOs and VPs, branding and social media experts, etc.)

- In what areas would you like to see improvement? Media relations? Social media? Messaging? Strategy? Crisis Communications? Pitches? Writing? Thought leadership? Other?

- What is PR doing right these days?

- If you work with a PR agency, have they delivered what they promised when you hired them?

We’d love for you to leave your comments here or, if you’ve got a lot to say but want to keep it private, feel free to email me at chris[at]perkettpr.com or fill out our online questionnaire. If interest is high, we’ll gather and analyze the feedback and share some additional insights on how we think PR can improve the problem areas. In any event, let’s stop saying PR is dying. Let’s talk about how it’s evolving.

Thank you in advance!

  • Pingback: sadekhm (Hisham Sadek)

  • http://Aerocles.Wordpress.com David Teicher (@Aerocles)

    I think blogger relations and people relations have really gained value. Word of mouth no longer means generating buzz and executing stunts, it means keeping a consistent and constant dialogue with your audience or consumer base. Obviously, as twitter evolves and becomes more of a mainstream platform, this type of engagement should be a focus in PR. Similarly, blogs are powerful a powerful and influential medium that has come to rival the even the greatest of traditional media outlets, especially when catering to a niche market. Keeping up what blogs are popular, who blogs about what topic…etc is incredible difficult because it changes every day. But for social media people, this opens the door of potential exposure, if handled correctly. As print continues to flounder, people will turn to blogs and hybrid sites that combine brand blogging with user generated info (like Gereports.com – not affiliated with them in any way,just a good example). Everyone is now both a consumer and producer. Relying solely on traditional media for outreach isn’t taking advantage of the fact that everyone’s voice is equally powerful and valid, and continues to gain authority as social media evolves. The fact that this world is ‘online’ gives a lot of people who have been in PR for a long time, the feeling that it’s not a credible medium and that it’s not valuable. As such, social media or blogger relations…and ‘people relations’ aren’t taken seriously. Blogs are spammed, twitter is used to feed useless updates about company news or brand deals…and the potential is never seen and those feelings are validated because no effort is made. We need to, as an industry, learn to respect the online community and understand that individual people are as important as major newspapers & that doesn’t devalue our jobs, rather, it provides us with an unlimited number of outlets to work with. Understanding that will help take PR to the next level. Change = Good

  • Pingback: PR: What Can We Do Better « Legends of Aerocles

  • Pingback: Recommended Reading For May 7th, 2009 « Legends of Aerocles

  • http://mikepratt.tv Michael J Pratt

    Disclaimer: I am not a PR expert and my opinions are based on only a few years of dealing with PR firms.

    Seems that the PR firm’s mission in the past was 1. manage corp. perception/damage control/etc 2. get word out on things (broadcast) and 3. get stories in traditional media outlets (coverage). Maybe I’m missing some things but those are biggies.

    In the great social media transformation of the last 5 years, some PR firms have adopted and others are still using traditional methods to “pitch” new outlets. I’m not sure that’s any more effective. In fact, I’d argue it’s less b/c the newer mediums are so much more engaging and bottom driven that the traditional top down PR methods are much more obvious now. #FAIL

    I’s personally like to see PR firms subtly realize this and utilize a process of engagement as their tool of choice. Yes, that requires the elimination of the verb “to pitch.” It’s more work. (Uh oh) You can no longer “blast” everything. There goes another verb.

    PR firms should be engagement experts and selling “engagement consultation services” to corporate clients who haven’t a clue how to “engage” their customer.

    Ironically, relationships become important again. Those PR firms with big rolodexes (upward facing relationships) will have to start building new ones….downward facing.

    For the money that’s both charged and paid to this supposedly dying industry, you’d think us clients could at least demand that much.

  • http://twitter.com/cselland Chris Selland

    First of all, I don’t believe PR is dying – at all – but it certainly needs to change.

    Your statement that relationships ‘become’ important is, IMHO, a considerable understatement. Relationships are everything (and always WERE, in my view – which is the root of how we got here).

    The PR firm I’d like to see in the future would operate more like a law firm. As a client, I would (gladly) pay for the senior partners of the firm, their relationships with senior, influential of the media, and their ability to expose my products/services & customers to senior, influential members of the media.

    The broken PR model, however, consists of junior staff hammering the ‘firm’s’ rolodex and blasting the ‘media’ incessantly with pitches that they neither want nor need anymore. The advent of blogs has only made this worse, as it creates an entirely new class of ‘media’ with little to no influence – and little to no interest to me as a customer.

    The model needs to change. Senior media, particularly with tools like Twitter and HARO at their disposal, doesn’t need to be hammered with pitches from junior associates – it’s expensive work with little to no payoff for clients. And it does nothing to leverage the REAL relationships that the senior partners of the firm might have – if anything it risks damaging them.

    The ideal PR firm for me would be much more of a boutique – with the SENIOR folks on the frontline. It is also probably more of an ‘on-demand’ (rather than ‘create demand’ model) since it requires the firm to be responsive to the media, rather than simply blasting press releases and pitches at them. And it would focus on quality, rather than quantity, of coverage.

  • Etta McCarthy

    As an independent marketing consultant, I’ve been seriously thinking about this question for awhile now. I’ve been working with high-tech startups for many years, more than I like to count, and over the past five years this has really come to light and mostly with some of my recent clients.
    I don’t believe that PR agencies are “dying” but with the introduction of the Web and social media, it is evident that the PR agencies definitely need to change the way they think and do business or a lot of them won’t be around. For years, PR was a “secretive art” that only the highly trained were involved in; having the first line of contact into reporters and in some cases analysts, but that is no longer true.
    With social media, companies no longer have to wait for the press to print information that they want to get out to the world – they can do it themselves through blogs, Twitter, YouTube and so many others. But are they presenting the right image for their companies? I think that this is where PR can truly help out. They need to become the educators and trainers to help companies become proficient with the “new media.” Get them in touch with the right blogs, and creating their own. And most importantly, the PR companies need to help their clients to build consistent, successful profiles on all of the social media sites. Content is king now, but we all need someone to help us drive it in the right direction. Get engaged – change is good!

  • http://www.perkettpr.com Christine Perkett

    David – you hit the nail on the head “Everyone is now both a consumer and producer.” This is something I have shouted from the rooftops – or at least the podium during speeches to communicators. They need to embrace this and help clients to embrace it! We have an unprecedented opportunity here – and it’s changing PR because we don’t have to wait for others – we can be publishers ourselves. I think many are still missing this point. They think only a key set of “influencers” matter. I think the influencers are always changing and evolving now.

    Mike – the word “blast” in relation to “pitch” at all is something that gives me the chills. Sometimes clients want or expect this but it’s ineffective – although many still don’t care – they just want the numbers on paper of how many we’ve pitched. It’s backwards- quality should matter more.

    Chris – that is an age old sentiment of PR agencies. That’s why I built PPR around “no junior hires” – we’ve got a staff of seasoned pros and we don’t hire entry-level. It avoids this very issue and let’s us put our money where our mouths are in pitches. Senior team in the pitch – senior team day to day.

    Etta – yes, again, back to the opportunity of everyone is a publisher. BUT if you publish bad information the point is moot. That’s why PR and communications experts are still important. I think everyone is so hyped up about the social media opportunity that they are forgetting about the fundamental goals – and the purpose for communication experts in the first place. That’s not changing – if anything, the open and more transparent nature of your company’s brand messages is MORE of a reason to work with experts, IMHO. :)

    Thanks all of you for reading and commenting. I hope others will chime in – this is an important issue. Maybe we’ll get a round table together soon.

  • Pingback: Tom Foremski Takes a Closer Look at the Changing PR Industry : PerkettPRsuasion - The PerkettPR Blog

  • http://mikepratt.tv/ Michael J Pratt

    Disclaimer: I am not a PR expert and my opinions are based on only a few years of dealing with PR firms.

    Seems that the PR firm's mission in the past was 1. manage corp. perception/damage control/etc 2. get word out on things (broadcast) and 3. get stories in traditional media outlets (coverage). Maybe I'm missing some things but those are biggies.

    In the great social media transformation of the last 5 years, some PR firms have adopted and others are still using traditional methods to “pitch” new outlets. I'm not sure that's any more effective. In fact, I'd argue it's less b/c the newer mediums are so much more engaging and bottom driven that the traditional top down PR methods are much more obvious now. #FAIL

    I's personally like to see PR firms subtly realize this and utilize a process of engagement as their tool of choice. Yes, that requires the elimination of the verb “to pitch.” It's more work. (Uh oh) You can no longer “blast” everything. There goes another verb.

    PR firms should be engagement experts and selling “engagement consultation services” to corporate clients who haven't a clue how to “engage” their customer.

    Ironically, relationships become important again. Those PR firms with big rolodexes (upward facing relationships) will have to start building new ones….downward facing.

    For the money that's both charged and paid to this supposedly dying industry, you'd think us clients could at least demand that much.