Thursday, May 7, 2009

What's old is new again

First off, thanks to Arik for the opportunity to write on his turf. I'm glad to chip in (five years without a vacation?!), and I hope my little essay below doesn't disappoint.

Let me begin with a ray of hope.

I hope what I'm about to say is nothing more than preaching to the choir. I hope this writing is simply helpful reinforcement of a concept you're familiar with.

If not, don't worry. We're hear to discuss and learn, not to judge or scold. I come in peace!

Here's the bottom line: This newfangled "PR 2.0" stuff we're all hearing about everywhere we turn these days is newfangled only on the surface. 

Wild, huh?

Yes, helping your colleagues or your clients understand Twitter and its 140-character limit is new. Dealing with the intricacies of blog-comment moderation policies is new. Pitching people (bloggers) who are a lot more likely to publicly shame, rightly or wrongly, PR folks who rub them the wrong way is new.

But of course:

Writing concisely -- and well -- is not new. Dealing with critics is not new. Working hard to make sure your time spent pitching stories is meaningful and fruitful is not new.

The platforms, tools and concepts we cluster under the umbrella of "social media" have not changed the core of what PR practitioners do. Not one bit.

We have a lot of new tools and lingo and a lot more access to information than we had collectively been accustomed to -- a lot of stuff that's upsetting what had become a comfortable, familiar way of working --  this era of "PR 2.0" is actually just a quick, rough return to what PR always should have been. 

Yes, bloggers are a lot more likely to publicly ridicule the sender of an off-target e-mail, but is fear of public shaming really your strongest motivation for making on-target pitches? Yes, Twitter and Facebook might seem like utterly foreign territory at times, but wasn't there a time when CD-ROMs were blowing people's minds?

It's like Arik wrote in his recent post: PR is a relationship business. Always has been, always will be. Sure, you can get a story placed working with a reporter you've never even heard of, but in the long run, relationships make the work easier. And recently we've seen a clear return to public relations -- not just media relations. Working with bloggers might closely resemble working with magazine reporters, but what about that active twitterer who's constantly talking about your company's products? Or the Facebook wall-post writer who's always keeping you on your toes? Media relations? Hardly. Public relations? Damn straight.

So while it's clear that those of us on the leading edge of Web-savvy PR are quickly becoming pseudo-IT pros almost as much as we're pseudo-journalists, the core of PR is still exactly the same: working to establish credibility and foster conversations between organizations and their interested publics. Online or off.

Photo courtesy of Krista76 on Flickr


AnnaB said...

Well said! PR & relationships are timeless. You just have to be open-minded, creative and be willing to adapt to new ways to communicate.

Tim said...

It was just easier to be lazy in the past. Now you actually have to work and, god forbid, communicate with people on their terms.

Bill Sledzik said...

I'd like to add something to your post, Mike. But you've pretty much said it all. While social media make it faster and easier to play the game, the objectives remain the same. Anyone who reads the literature of PR from the 1980s knows the "relationship" thing isn't a new concept. But it's nice to see the marketing folks are finally catching up -- and listening to their PR counsel! :-)