Regarding the article ‘PR is Dead’

CaptureA letter to the PR industry,

The latest article that declares “PR is Dead” makes me chuckle. Published yesterday on PR Daily, the article refers to the new book written by Robert Phillips Trust me, PR is Dead, which in my opinion is a brilliant title. Phillips has created great PR (well media fodder and excitement for sure) with his admirable ‘click bait’ title.

However, when I started to think about the statement more, I questioned the validity. Is PR really dead? Or is our understanding of it simply changing?

In my opinion PR is not dead, and probably won’t ever die. Instead, I believe that the terminology and understanding of what PR is supposed to do is changing. ‘Public Relations’ is a generalist term that is used to describe all kinds of specific tactics – everything from media relations, to social media engagement, to corporate social responsibility. We should really be looking to explain the function of strategic communications, its role in helping a corporation or brand, and simply talk about the tactics that fall under it as tools, not as a strategic way to build customers.

The Huffington Post writer who covered Phillips book says PR is dead because, “The PR talent pool is shallow. The industry deploys no reliable measurement and glories in its lack of accountability.” I both agree and disagree with her statement. Yes, over my career I have, like she has experienced, come across and worked with countless ‘bad’ PRs. Individuals who are good at executing and following instructions, who churn out press releases and social media posts without thinking about the strategy behind them, and who don’t think about what they are doing as a way to incite change, create a movement, or influence popular opinion. They never consider what tactics they need to employ to help to impact the overall goals and strategy for a campaign or program. Instead, they roll out the same old arsenal of tools – let’s do a press release, then let’s pitch these journos because they know me, etc., etc. Nothing they do actually asks about the ‘why’ and builds the program around that answer. There are some good eggs around, it’s unfortunate though that the bad seems to be outweighing the good at this point in time.

It is clear that although Phillips chose his controversial title to polarize and hopefully entice the PR and corporate world to read it, he doesn’t necessarily think that the industry is dead. Instead, I would like to think he has had the realization that true strategic communications is indeed a very valued commodity. However, in my experience, it is also very hard to find. True communications strategists are masters at change management and building movements. They question everything, play the devil’s advocate, and when building a program always work to ensure that the message they are trying to convey is one of the cornerstones of the organization/movement – that all of the people involved believe in the same goal and philosophy. Hopefully, it’s an honest one.

I leave you with this question – Is PR the new Lawyer joke? Perhaps the reason why Phillips book title is the latest in a long list of articles talking about the ‘evil’ PR world (“these sentiments and more can be found every day on PR Daily”), because there needs to be a cleansing in the terminology and people working in the space.

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