In her excellent book, "The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web," Tamar Weinberg applies Chris Heuer's "participating is marketing" phrase directly to public relations. Participating in online communities is joining, if not eclipsing, media contacts as a prime measure of PR effectiveness.
This excerpt from Tamar's book is worth being pondered by everyone in PR.
Participation is Marketing for Public Relations Professionals
"The area of public relations is also seeing a tremendous evolution and paradigm shift. Communicating on behalf of a client to a group of constituents via snail mail, phone, or e-mail is obsolete. In keeping with the 'participation is marketing' theme, public relations professionals should actually have relationships with the public, which goes beyond the standard press release. Further, online communities are becoming more influential than traditional media outlets. A successful social media campaign can immediately raise product awareness for hundreds of thousands of individuals who are specifically seeking out these communities for relevant news. On the other hand, these same social media consumers are not looking for the traditional pitch. They are looking for newsworthy content that the community as a whole believes is relevant to a wider audience. They rely on the valuable and selfless contributions made by reputable members of these sites and communities."
"Public relations professionals will need to up the ante in terms of how they communicate on behalf of their clients. The ideal PR professional is a community participant and not just someone who is solicited to send out an often irrelevant pitch to a publication."