“Why the Publicity Bubble in PR Begs Popping”

Today’s post was written by socialTNT contributing writer, Marie Williams.

There’s been talk lately about the PR pro’s evolution from publicist to social media strategist. While I wholeheartedly support the increased attention to social media, the underlying message is disconcerting. For too long, media relations and the hot pursuit of “ink” has been our reason for being. Let’s pop that bubble right now.

PR has never meant press relations, but to look at the industry’s widespread propagation of that mantra it would seem that is the case. How is it that we term ourselves publicists, when our true role encompasses so much more? Perhaps if we treated the industry as a more strategic practice instead of focusing on getting a stack of clips, we’d have more seasoned and capable professionals in the field instead of an army of cold callers smiling, dialing, and pissing off droves of journalists and bloggers in the process.

It’s interesting that despite the growth of social media and the decline of mainstream media, the importance of the latter has stayed virtually the same. There’s still a lot of resistance, most of all from PR professionals, to admit that traditional media relations is declining in importance and we live in a brave new world where social media is taking over.

A hit in the Wall Street Journal is a great coup and will no doubt cement the reputation of your brand with your consumers, your business partners, and your competition. But it’s becoming less and less valuable to the bottom line as social media grows exponentially in influence.

One example that continues to blow my mind is when a client of mine was included in a Thanksgiving-day GMA segment – a major accomplishment for our team. The client saw thousands of inbound leads occur as a result and was pleased as punch with the results.

Imagine his (and our!) surprise when a few months later, when we secured the client blog coverage on TMZ – which was still a relatively small celebrity-focused news site at the time – to phenomenal results that blew GMA’s out of the water. When a niche-focused Web site can bring in more bang than a nationally-syndicated morning show, you stop and pay attention.

The Internet tips the scales in favor of social media by making it far easier to track online coverage that leads to site traffic, leads from that traffic that convert into sales, and gauge customer opinions by participating in the online discussion.

Beyond online coverage’s potential for being far more successful than mainstream media coverage, the possibilities for community engagement is endless and gives companies a better chance than ever before of dialoguing with their most important publics: The end user. These direct-to-consumer conversations are arguably the most important for a company, and PR can strategize for and drive those conversations.

Social media provides PR professionals an opportunity to take back their rightful role as big thinkers, strategists and high-touch relationship builders, relegating media relations to a more modest (and arguably more deserved) position with the rest of a company’s key audiences.

It’s no wonder most clients still value the old school “ink” and pooh-pooh social media coverage as a lesser accomplishment when we so poorly represent ourselves as mere media lackeys. Yes, it’s time to expand beyond the publicist role, but in the process, we should realize that we never should have represented ourselves so narrowly in the first place.

Contributing writer Marie Williams also blogs at www.flackette.com about PR and agency life. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

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[The above image, “POP!” by N1NJ4 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons]

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3 Comments

Filed under Public Relations 2.0

3 responses to ““Why the Publicity Bubble in PR Begs Popping”

  1. Great post, Marie.

    With social media, we are no longer intermediaries or gatekeepers. Instead, we go back to our original role of creators and conversation facilitators.

    Social media gives companies the chance to have a direct relationship with both customers and blogos/journos. Traditional media doesn’t allow for the exploration that online media does. With social media, consumers can easily search and share, causing ideas and information to spread at an awesome rate.

    With that in mind, social media can help raise awareness of companies/topics and prime the discussion for the MSM. For me, the effect of gaining exposure with thousands of highly-energized and interested niche blog readers is more powerful than a hit in the MSM.

  2. Thanks, Chris. It’s exciting to see how the possibilities for connecting with consumers is growing in size because of social media. We live in an age of significant change for the PR industry, and I’m looking forward to the ride ahead. :)

    I agree that social media is becoming a strong foundation for both raising awareness and sparking MSM discussions. When you see how deeply consumers can connect with online conversations, MSM’s affect often pales in comparison.

  3. Pingback: Why the Publicity Bubble in PR Begs Popping « Flackette

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