Facing ‘Public Relations is Dead’


Maybe it’s not really the elephant in the room, but the "PR is Dead" theme came up at last night’s Boston Media Makers gathering. Being the PR person present, I responded that PR is changing, not dead. My riff about the end of mass press release emails and PR not being only media relations, is one we hear a lot. Here is what was really interesting:

– Most social media events I go to are infested with PR people. We know our profession is changing with all media, and that "PR is Dead" rants abound, but we feel safe in our mutual affirmation bubble.

It is good practice to have to explain how PR is relevant on my own without backup. I think I did OK but more practice wouldn’t hurt.

We all could use it.

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  1. I’m grappling with this quite a bit. Because it really depends on your definition of what PR is. If you take the industry approach: it’s all encompassing and is essentially all forms of communications and marketing.

    If you take the layman’s: It’s MSM relations. Old media isn’t as relevant anymore…so thus PR is a dying profession.

    I think it’s a little bit of both myself. People who suck and haven’t innovated in years are going to wither and die. People who are making concerted efforts to embrace new techniques will be fine. The profession will survive…it just might have a different job description.

  2. I can’t listen to your talk. Apparently utterli and macs do not go well togather.

    Nevertheless. I wonder whether the time for hyper specialized marketers is over.
    What is said for PR could be said for many other marketing specialty.

    The community era on the net brings consumer, conversations and consumer communities closer to enterprises.

    When a marketer engage in a conversation, he may be doing PR and branding and research and product innovation and focus group and influencer relationshio and (if he/she ends up linking back to the consumer blog) some form of SEO.

    What I think and we start seeing this is that it will push marketing agencies (whatever their current focus is ) to:
    – start with client objective at a higher level
    – consult, train and do WITH the client instead doing “on behalf”.

    So more business focus and ability to craft social media programs aligned with these objectives.


  3. Dominic, it appears Utterli recorded a blank file. Oh well, and it was brilliant too. Sorry about that.

    I agree that cross-pollinating functions is becoming more pronounced with social media – though I wouldn’t call it non-existent before. From the inside, the PR job is slowly morphing– in some instances the difference is more radical, in others it is painfully (sometimes that actually means the ‘old” methods are still effective).

    Change is gradual, but it’s happening.

  4. I have always thought that PR is first and foremost about building relationships with your ‘publics’.

    Trad. media was just another stakeholder – and the trickiest one at that. Now we have social media, PR has lost it’s chains – and can move on to where it rightfully should be – back with building relationships.

    Then again, I have always worked client side. I guess it’s agencies that will struggle. Too much invested in media relations, not people relations.

  5. I think you are describing what I think of these days as a shift from public relations to “public relationships”. PR is in a great place to adjust to “engaging people” rather than simply informing them. Seems it is really more like the transformation of caterpillar into a butterfly not so much the death of one?

  6. mel webster

    PR is as dead as radio was dead when television came along and as dead as newspapers were when radio happened. Yes, newspapers may finally be dying, but talk about your slow death. You are right on, PR must change and those who change the best will be the winners.

  7. PR is dead? Are they serious? It’s more alive than ever. Social media has brought in that extra zip we needed to spread our messages and get people talking. We don’t just have to wait for the media to pick up our story anymore, we are the media. Whoever thinks PR is dead is confused with the newspaper industry. That is dying because of the new medium we all in the PR industry have come to love as Social Media.

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