The Rise of Two Tier PR
Frequent readers of this blog will know that I’m concerned about the emergence of two tier Public Relations (PR). Over the last few years I’ve been privileged enough to see and work with those agencies and organisations which are leading the digital revolution, but more recently I’ve also come into contact with those which clearly have not evolved.
For those unfamiliar with my argument, I see tier-one as those organisations which pedal tactical publicity, whereas tier-two are characterised by a data-driven, strategic and digital approach that drives real business goals. This is what the next era of PR will look like. Unfortunately, tier-one are prevalent, but more worryingly is the fact they risk under-valuing the function of PR and harming the industry as a whole.
My concerns are based on numerous pitches I’ve received that have the flimsiest of ROIs, with little thought given to measurement or how it could it impact the business strategy. If you’re interested in taking a robust approach to PR measurement, take a look at this post on Outputs, Outtakes and Outcomes.
While it would be foolish to predict the death of traditional PR or media relations, it’s important we acknowledge that this activity fails to show PR in its most impactful light. Those unwilling or unable to change will be left behind and the gap between those leading the PR industry and those treading-water will only grow bigger.
For many businesses it’s highly likely that a ‘hit’ of tactical publicity will often be beneficial to an overall campaign, but it is only that – one part of a campaign. A ‘hit’ of media coverage is not a result (or Outcome). Although there are many agencies and freelancers that a make a good living by meeting this tactical need (and fair play to them), the carpet-bombing ‘all news is good news’ mantra focuses effort on the wrong activity and therefore delivers the wrong results. As an industry we must ask ourselves if we want to be characterised by tactics such as, press releases and media relations? The golden age of media relations from the 80s and 90s is over and PR can deliver much more than publicity.
We’re now in the era of complex, multi-stakeholder, multi-media relations. It needs new thinking within the industry. If you’re in tier-one, you may not necessarily die out, but you will become less strategic, less valued and ultimately less relevant. As PRs we can either accept this and grow or remain tactical in nature and survive (for now).