We are saddened to say that Public Relations has passed away after many years of barely hanging on. PR was surrounded by members of the industry, many of whom are unable to let go and perhaps who are even still in denial, while others in attendance — we have to say — were glad to see PR go. Surviving is PR’s successor, Content Relations. Content Relations will be fulfilling all of Public Relations' duties moving forward. Rest peacefully, PR.
We feel every ending deserves a proper sendoff, and now that we’ve sent PR on its way, we can finally move forward as in industry. That is, of course, only if the industry recognizes that Public Relations is in fact dead. Despite the cold, hard facts, we will humor the industry by explaining precisely why PR is out and Content Relations is in.
The term Public Relations was born in the early 1900s when it was defined by Ivy Lee as “a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organization followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.” This definition was decided on over 100 years ago, during a time when automobiles were just hitting the market and actors only performed on radio or the stage. This was a time when people were employed as elevator operators, bowling alley pinsetters, and lamplighters. How could it possibly pertain to today’s marketplace of smartphones, eHealth applications, and yes, automatic bowling alley pin dispensers?
And in case you’re in the practice or redefining an already defined term, we were gifted with a new definition for PR in 2011 and 2012 by the Public Relations Society of America. This definition reads, "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."
That doesn’t quite sit well with us. For starters, companies have no interest in “relating” to the public. Companies want to reach a hyper-focused audience. But the public? Be more general, PR — you can’t!
And the problem with generality is that it creates confusion. Anyone who hires a PR firm gets a different explanation of what that firm does and what their capabilities are. Do they handle social media? Do they just assist with media placements? Do they create new content? Do they have a mobile strategy? Commonly understood services are now blurred, allowing confusion to fester into the very nature of the industry. There can be no growth were there is already confusion.
The truth is, it’s the platforms and mediums that have changed, not the industry. If a PR firm is trying to focus on mobile strategies, in truth, that’s completely out of their wheelhouse compared to a digital firms capabilities. PR no longer has a place in the digital world.
What does have a place is Content Relations, because content is king. It’s not about a great-placed media article. It’s about a great media article that sparks conversation or debate across social media to create a unique mobile experience. It’s about a story that audiences can read, watch, and interact with. It’s about telling a story that is cohesive across blogs, social media, media placements, and experiential and that can be accessed with any type of technology.
Most importantly, it’s not limited. It’s not just “media relations” and it’s not just the ability to sway public opinion. It’s being able to compel a specific audience in the most effective of ways.
Whether a company is a startup or a conglomerate, they should not have to deal with ten different points of contact to run campaigns and just pray to the high heavens these campaigns somehow intersect. Instead, a Content Relations firm provides a marketing strategy that is guided and strategic across every platform and medium based on well-orchestrated content. It’s a Content Relations firm that interweaves each and every aspect of a company’s message into one cohesive front. Public Relations firms are simply not capable of this type of holistic, integrated approach in today’s digital world. So while PR has sadly taken its last breath, the industry is ready for a breath of fresh air in the form of Content Relations.
Beth Principi is currently the Media Strategist/Staff Writer at Emerging Insider Communications.
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