Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Public Relations = Media Relations?

This week's edition of The Economist has an important article on the PR industry that everyone in the profession should read. From my perspective, there are some “ouches” in there. I believe that the story reinforces the fact that many folks in our industry have lost sight of the fundamental purpose of public relations, which has led to a skewed perspective by the population at large.

What do I mean? The general notion stated in this article (and that I've heard almost everywhere) is that Public Relations=Media Relations. It starts and stops there. That perception is extremely unfortunate, because PR should/could be so much more. To quote from one of my favorite textbooks Public Relations Practices Fifth Edition by Patrick Jackson, Fellow PRSA and Allen H. Center, Fellow PRSA:


“Although everyone in the organization can affect its relationships with various publics, establishing public relations policies, goals, and activities is clearly a managerial function. Public relations staffers are part of management.”
Did you catch it? PR is not about getting your face/name in the paper. Its not about news releases or press conferences or newlsetters or speeches. It's about managing relationships with key publics. From another part of Jackson and Center's book:
"If all public relations does is maintain the status quo, it is being used ineffectually. In addition, if it changes only the way people feel or think about the organization - and vice versa - it has not realized its full potential. Effective public relations elicits mutually favorable behavior from both the organization and its publics."

That's important stuff to remember. No matter what you may have heard, public relations does not JUST equal media relations. That is mixing up the table saw with the new wood table. A tool with the end product.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Brand New Day

Just have to share some exciting news. Over the past couple months, I have been working with several other folks in my office to launch a blog that covers Orlando's business trends and its interesting people and companies. Well, we are off and running and have some interesting stuff already popping up on the site. Check it out. This is a v1.0, so hopefully we will continue to tweak this and improve it. The primary audience we had in mind was reporters looking for story ideas, leads and sources. So, mostly we'll be using this as a media relations tool, and I think it will be an interesting case study. Will reporters use this kind of resource? Not sure, but I guess we will soon find out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Flip Side

Okay, this post is going to seem a bit odd coming on the heels of what I wrote last night. But, isn't that the interesting thing about this whole blogging concept? Namely, this medium's aptitude at voicing opinions in real time (which sometimes shows a train of thought rather than a final concept).

On to my point...today I read a number of posts starting with this
one about a comment made by Steve Rubel. Steve is correctly identified as one of the leading PR bloggers. The criticism came when he indicated that he saw himself near the top of a caste like system. As these critics pointed out, I think Steve's intent was to be helpful. However, the comments got me thinking about a trend I've noticed among some bloggers. That is to focus on the regurgitation of information rather than the development of new content. (Note: I am not directing this perspective at Steve as he does a great job of providing fresh content. In fact, I don't have any one person in mind at all.)

There is some room for this approach to blogging (a great example is
Boing Boing). However, at its roots blogging is supposed to be a person's thoughts on a topic. I just can't believe that the role of top-tier blogs is simply to redirect people to other blogs. Blogs like Micro Persuasion got to be where they are because of strong/fresh content not just links. So, how does that relate to all of us entry-level bloggers? Content is King! Quit worrying so much about pitching your blog, and focus on developing strong content. If you don't have anything interesting to say (and I'm sure you do) than maybe this whole blog thing isn't for you. And, if you do want to make a name for yourself, consider posting comments on the sites of guys like Steve. Prove you've got something good to say and people will start to listen.


Update:

Just got forwarded a link that once again proves there is "nothing new thing under the sun." (reference to Ecclesiates 1:9) Thanks, Josh.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Feeling Overwhelmed

Okay, I've got to be honest here. I haven't posted in a few days or even been online much over the weekend. So, tonight I had a few minutes and booted up the ol' laptop to check my RSS reader and surf a bit. Wasn't planning on posting but just had to get this off my chest.

I am a bit overwhelmed at some of the intelligent conversation happening on topics such as
PR measurement, the growing convergence between new and traditional media, and PR's use of social media tools. I say I'm overwhelmed not because there is good conversation, but because of the speed of that conversation. Trying to keep up with one's day job as well as stay in touch with the growth and transition of the communication's field is not the easiest endeavor.

I guess it all goes back to the shrinking distance between organizations and their audiences. That has led to the industry's shifting its thinking, redefining its objectives and modifying its approach. Maybe the PR world isn't doing such a bad job of keeping up with the times so to speak.

I just hope that we don't all get lost in the blur of information driving this crazy communication train.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ramblings & Musings Gets Added to PR Blogs List

My little space on the web has been discovered by blogger Constantin Basturea who maintains a fairly extensive list of blogs related to the PR industry. You can check out his post with "Ramblings & Musings" listed here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Breaking the 'Cheap Labor' Myth

A few months ago I was asked to do a presentation on internship programs. I focused this discussion on why intern programs are not "cheap labor" and in fact, cost a lot in terms of time and energy. I then tied that back to why time and effort would result in great value for both the employer and student.

Since I have a new intern starting today, this was on my mind. Here are the main points that I discussed.

Value to the Employer:
  • Opportunity for younger professionals to learn managerial skills.
  • Opportunity to “scope” out talent / future employees.
  • Opportunity to be a mentor – long-term investment in the future.
  • Opportunity to get more work out of a day.

Value to the Student:

  • Opportunity to make mistakes.
  • Opportunity to learn that the real world isn’t “glamorous.”
  • Opportunity to experience lots of tasks.
  • Opportunity to build a portfolio.

Developing a valuable program:

  • Analyze work environment, and develop program requirements and work plan.
  • Write an intern manual – code of conduct, dress code, internship requirements.
  • Find a talent source – educational program, professional contacts, etc.
  • Create an interview process – basic questions, writing test, etc.
  • Set aside time for a proper orientation.
  • KEEP YOUR INTERN BUSY!!! One or two long-term projects and actively look for short-term projects. Not their job to ask, your job to assign. (time commitment)
  • Offer advice – on projects and general topics. (mentor)
  • At the conclusion, evaluate and BE EVALUATED.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Great Example

As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to highlight a local agency I think is a great example of where the business is going. I've watched with great interest the growth and evolution of Knight Images here in Metro Orlando. From advertising, to media relations, to web development, to publishing - they are willing to dabble in just about everything. And, because of their willingness to be flexible, I believe you will continue to see them thrive over the coming years.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Six PR Predictions for 2006

Now that I’m back from vacation, I thought I would start 2006 with six predictions about the PR industry. Please understand that these are simply my thoughts and observations and do not have any serious academic research to back them up.

1. The Death of the Mid-Sized PR Agency - It is my prediction that over the coming decade we are going to see a slow death of the current mid-size, PR agency. This prediction is based on the fact that overhead costs associated with employee compensation have risen much faster than what clients are willing to pay each month in retainer. I believe that this will lead to three scenarios: the rise of more consultant style PR counsel; the merger/acquisition of mid-sized agencies by larger agencies; and the diversification of mid-sized agencies into other business units such as publishing.

2. Refocus on Two-Way Communication - Blogs, wikis, podcasts...all forms of communication that rely on two-way conversation rather than the one-way, "we'll feed you what you need to know" method traditionally employed by corporate America. PR departments are going to have to take this into account moving forward. No longer can a PR practitioner rely solely on newsletters, news releases and static web sites if they want to be successful. These traditional one-way forms of communication are going to be eclipsed by the stakeholder group's desire to interact with the company or organization.

3. Advertising’s Continued Morph into PR - It used to be that the role of advertising (essentially to sell product) and the role of PR (essentially to build image) were fairly distinct. That is becoming less and less the case, and I feel certain that this trend will continue. Ask most PR professionals if they have developed ads as part of comprehensive communication plans and they will tell you, "yes." That's because the line between these two fields has become increasingly blurred.

4. The Evolution of the News Release – I’ve heard arguments from both sides on this one. Is the news release dead? Is it as viable as ever? One thing is certain…the function of the news release has forever changed. Once viewed as a media pitching tool, the release has now been relegated to two main functions. One – informing stock holders about current events and announcements that can impact their bottom line. Two – serving as a source or historical document for media and internal audiences.

5. Experience vs. Performance – Okay, this one isn’t just about PR but is relevant. I’ve observed a shift in the past few years from rewarding employees based on experience to rewarding them based on performance. I have many young friends who manage professionals with more years experience. I can’t imagine this is going to change anytime soon. That’s not to say that experience isn’t valuable and often preferable. It’s just that experience alone won’t get you by anymore. You’ve got to show that you can get it done.

6. A Bunch of Flacks – As a PR professional, I hate being lumped under this term. However, what makes me madder is that there are people out there who are calling themselves PR professionals that are actually just flacks. How do you know the real from the fake? Ask these questions:

  • Does the PR dept. have the ear of the organization’s executive team?
  • Is the PR dept. playing the role of the organization’s conscience?
  • Is the PR dept. both TALKING to their stakeholder groups and LISTENING to them?
  • Is the PR dept. transmitting messages from stakeholder groups to the executive team?

I believe that the image of our industry has suffered tremendously due to the growing number of PR flacks and shrinking number of PR counselors. We need to either help educate the flacks or “cut the fat.”

So, there you have it, my observations and predictions for 2006. Enjoy.

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