Last week, pitching to a prospective PR client, it was clear just how much content creation is needed for Web 2.0 media relations to fly. Differentiated, relevant content is the modern equivalent of gold. If, like me, you have worked in ‘traditional communications’, you learn that the more senior you get, the less you touch content. Facing inwards, not outwards, this is a world of meetings, messaging and crisis avoidance; days filled with PowerPoint and Excel analysis, not content creation using Twitter, Vimeo or WordPress.
PR is at the crossroads. B2B PR especially is in danger of becoming a discredited function, where original content is perceived as having low business value (think Facilities Management or Auditing as opposed to ‘Talent Management‘). However, producing gobbledygook with clockwork efficiency is not Thought Leadership and it is no coincidence that there are lots of press release templates in Microsoft’s Word these days.
Exciting, even contrarian, PR ideas, deliver differentiation and creates sales. So why has PR today become a plumbing function? Here are five dumb reasons for the disrespect and reasons for PR to still be cheerful:
1. “Why pay for real mailing lists?” (aka Free PR wires)
A lot of Web content and functionality is now ‘free’. If you disregard the fact that you get what you pay for, you can boost your Google ranking with ‘robot’ site listings.
Reason for cheer – Hardly anyone reads or cares about, reads or believes these press release reprints. This is low-level PPC fraud not PR.
2. “Why wait for brand discussions to develop, when we know Clicks make Sales?” (aka PPC)
Thankfully, a fallacy that is dying out. PR had its head in the sand when PPC started stealing its thunder (and budgets) but this debate is moving on thanks to the Web traffic attracted by Real Time Comments on influential blogs like Scobleizer.
Reason for cheer – No brand was ever built on Clicks alone.
3. “We’ll do PR on top the Day Job!” (aka Staff cuts)
Smaller marketing budgets mean PR is cut or outsourced [Disclosure Positive Marketing occasionally benefits from the latter] But PR creates content for the ‘In the News’, Customer Success Stories and several other sections of Web-sites that sales guys point customers at when they are closing deals.
Reason for cheer – PR is wising up and selling.
4. “Why wait for permission to publish?” (aka Embargo-busting)
A key part of ‘Corporate PR’ was to stops stories coming out until the company was ready. The Real Time nature of the ‘River of News’ on Twitter means more, not less, perception management is needed to brands.
Reason for cheer – PR can reassert its importance here (unless you are Habitat).
5. “Our Investors are not paying attention to our numbers” (aka The economy is down)
A sure sign of the downturn is a reduction in proactive media outreach (although the press release production line marches on). With fewer ‘good news stories’ to pump, it is easier to trot out ‘back-slapping’ partner releases than thought leadership.
Reason for cheer – This short-termism is great for those taking calculated risks to influence news-hungry media today.
Next time, we will discuss why PR content may be a commodity (just like gold) but is about to become yet more valuable. In Part 3, we will look at how to exploit the confusion over just what PR is good for anymore. Mean time, feel free to Retweet, leave comments or debate directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.