I was heartened to see that New Media Age (NMA) had a leader on ‘PR is becoming crucial to brands’ digital strategy‘, but the actual article was a major disappointment, mainly highlighting how far digital people are from actually ‘getting’ what public relations actually is.
It starts with the same lazy and inaccurate assumption that PR is all about ‘knocking out a press release and rounding up a few journalists to buy champagne for at a product launch”. It then asks if PR is really up to speed or if the discipline is changing?
Eh? Changing from something it never was? Let’s repeat it, for the umpteenth time:
Public relations is not just media relations and press releases
When I entered the public relations profession 20+ years ago it wasn’t about press releases and buying drinks for journalists. Now I can understand how people outside the industry can get this impression, but what I don’t get is how people working in any professional communications discipline can make the same mistake. I make it my professional duty to know a bit about what I don’t know about digital, media planning, creative, print and all the other communications disciplines that I’m not an expert in.
The leader reminded me of what we see time and time again – that digital and social media agencies can be really good at implementing online activity, but still have a long way to go before they can be trusted to have any major input into the broader corporate communications and marketing communications strategy. It also means companies and brands have got to spend time ‘policing’ what the digital and social media agencies do to make sure that there ‘brilliant’ campaign doesn’t have any adverse corporate reputation side effects.
And because it’s essential that digital strategy is fully integrated into the overall corporate communications strategy it also means that the only future for digital and social media agencies is if they hire people who truly understand it, because the PR agencies and advertising agencies can and are hiring people who ‘do’ digital as well as anyone at a specialist digital or social media agency.