Are we witnessing the death of PR?

November 10, 2009

Not sure, but it’s looking like the traditional PR providers are on their death knoll, according to recent reports.

Such as this article from PR Twitterati and non-traditionalist Mark Borkowski, highlighting that tools such as Sidewiki are pushing the Ab Fab brigade to the brink of extinction. Not that he cares of course – his kind of PR is contemporary.

Then there are the new breed of PRs, such as We Are Social – instigators of the Innocent Drinks Twitter feed and much, much more. I can imagine traditional PRs reading this new kind of PR delivery and quite literally crapping themselves when a client mentions the words ‘social’ and ‘media’ in the same sentence. Great work, and totally audience-focused for Innocent.

Wondering what a traditional PR looks like? Check out Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentacious PR for a few clues. Awful.

Let’s face it – editors are pulling sources of news and articles from a multitude of areas now, including social media channels. The availability of news, comment, and public interaction means that the Press no longer ‘relies’ on PRs to fill up empty spaces offline and online when deadlines draw nearer. That’s right, PRs – the Press don’t need you, even if newsroom numbers have been cut.

Another important fact for those buying PR is this – the “It’s who you know” argument – so often rolled out by PR firms to newly-signed clients – is less and less relevant: let’s be honest, most media contacts are shifting weekly at the moment, let alone staying put on a publication or news site online for months on end. Those days are relegated well and truly to pre-Recession.

So, the death of PR? Maybe the end of a certain type of PR. As an editor, I’m not sorry to see it go. I welcome in the new and say a goodbye to the bad old days when up-their-own-arse PRs controlled far too much content supply into the British media.

My predictions? More and more media channels will open up, leading the Press to work with fast, reliable, non-pretentious distributors of information. Contemporary PRs have nothing to fear. Old school Ab Fabs? Time for a career change, I think.

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9 Responses to “Are we witnessing the death of PR?”

  1. Greg Watts said

    I think PR will reinvent itself (it’s very good at inventing, of course). I’d like to think that we will see a lessening of the grip PR has on news content, but I’m not sure it will happen in any significant way. With many newspapers shedding jobs, they are likely to rely even more on ready-made PR stories.

    • bristoleditor said

      Thanks Greg

      Not sure editors are relying on PRs more, now they’ve had to see editorial staff being cut and cut – if anything, it places the onus on good (and I mean talented, not lazy) journalists to look further afield across social media sources, rather than hook in evem more to run-of-the-mill PR fodder. I think there will always be a place for digging for stories…even in the recession-hit newsrooms across the UK. PRs beware.

  2. danslee said

    Trad PR has had its day.

    So has trad journalism.

    Greg is quite right. It’ll re-invent and adapt. If those people don’t they’ll go the way of so many journalism jobs.

    As a former journalist of 12 years and current PR officer of four, social media opens up all sorts of opportunities. It’s a chance to speak to people directly rather than hope they may read the downpage on page 17 written by someone with a poor grasp of facts.

    Thats not to say that newspapers will be out of the picture entirely…

    • bristoleditor said

      Great inputs Dan

      And I am in total agreement with you – social media opens it all up, and widens the playing field, to boot. Good journalists will continue to produce good content. Poor hacks will re-train and move into other areas…I have seen a few poor PRs over the years, but the majority of those with a journalistic background always deliver the goods. The Ab Fabs? Time to move on people – the game is up, and social media is calling time on you all! Ahem.

  3. Candleflower said

    More and more journalists seem to be leaving newspapers for PR and comms roles in the commercial and public sectors. Why? Their jobs are going, they’re not rewarded properly for the hours they work and few that I meet are able to do ‘proper’ journalism any more, some not even being allowed away from their desks. PRs can do fine without newspapers as much as journos can do without PRs. We’re all moving into social media and on-line content. If PRs are in danger, journalists are even more so.

  4. bristoleditor said

    True – to an extent.

    Journalists may be leaving papers, but there’s the retention argument to bear in mind: journalists leave papers anyway. Maybe not in such large numbers, but the number-crunchers brought that about via bad management.

    Good points though – maybe online content and social media will transform the way journos AND PRs work: from my viewpoint, that’s actually very good news indeed.

    And sooo long overdue.

  5. As an aside – Sidewiki only works if you’ve downloaded it and agreed to let Google store information about your searches and the sites you’ve visited. And you’d have to have the IQ of an Eccles Cake to agree to that – ergo – Sidewiki commentary can be taken with a pinch of salt. On top of that, Google decides which comments get posted (I’m being simplistic here, but, hey) and it’s based on the profile you already have with Google. In short, Sidewiki (as yet) does not merit the hysteria that’s growing in t’blogosphere. And as for Google Wave – as someone had it recently – ‘it’s the latest thing that no-one has any idea what to do with’.

    In terms of the death of PR – I genuinely hope that the changing media landscape will see off the Rubellas, but I somehow think that they’ll crop up somewhere else – as ‘social media strategists’, probably. As long as there’re companies succumbing to Shiny Object Syndrome, there’ll be numpties ‘advising’ on how to make the Shiny Object work.

    But – real PR (or Corporate Communications) will never go away, no matter how the media landscape changes. Real communications is not about insulting journalists with mistimed ‘phone calls and inappropriate products – real communications is about creating real and relevant news on behalf of your client (using his business, or product, or brand) and ensuring that the news thus generated reaches an appropriate audience, in the most efficent manner. There will always be a need for the communications interface between the client and the media.

    Rubella is not a communications interface – more a communications inyourface.

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi Jeremy

      Great inputs – many thanks.

      And the link on your own excellent corporate PR blog was much appreciated, too. Pleased that you found the 10 Commandments of Social Media useful – I am happy for you to re-use it wherever it might be helpful, of course.

      Sidewiki? As with most online tools, it will be open to abuse, but if it raises the bar and makes certain PRs more accountable in the information they pass on, and more importantly the way in which they pass on that PR, it might just be beneficial, longer-term. I am really pleased you’ve got no time for the likes of Rubella either: that classic, ditzy, awful, vaccuous Ab Fab PR must drive ‘serious’ corporate PR chaps like you up the wall. Maybe.

      Would you say that corporate comms is any less ‘real’ that other types of PR? Who decides what is important, valid and useful ultimately – it’s the readership isn’t it? Based on their uptake of content.

      Loving the ‘communications inyourface’ wordplay too. Nice one.

      • Thanks for the feedback – I’m not a fan of social media, but, like it or not, it exists and we have to deal with it. Unfortunately, it attracts snake-oil salesmen, mountebanks and charlatans – much like anything new and as-yet unexplored – and it is a duty to unmask and confound them. (I know I sound like I’m an eighty-year-old retired captain of the Queen’s Own Light PR Professionals, but I’m not, honest.)

        And you’re right, never been a fan of your common-or-garden PR lovely, never will be. Gives us all a bad name. Harrumph.

        Ultimately – yes, it’s the readership. But the resdership has nothing to read unless you (the journalist) give it to them. You know your audience, you decide what they’re going to find meaningful and relevant. My task, as the communicator, is to understand what you’re likely to think is relevant to your audience, so that you can sell newspapers (or magazines, or websites, or Twitter feeds)and then provide you with it, with a little bit of client sparkledust contained therein. Bloody complicated, I’m sure you’d agree.

        All the best

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