It's springtime! Flowers are blooming and birds are chirping. Time once again to clean out the garage a set the old blogosphere ablaze with the burning of a few publicists. The assault on PR practitioners has become a seasonal thing. I have been a part of it in the past and in Naked Conversations, we wrote an entire chapter called "Survival of the Publicists." In it, we talked about the fact that the image of the PR industry had more cracks in it than the portrait of Dorian Grat. We cited the Edelman Trust Barometer which said PR people were viewed in lower esteem than even lawyers.
Since then I have written several times about the deteriorating business model of traditional PR as well of its diminishing effectiveness. But, I was thinking enough had been said, when this new round of PR good/bad erupted. My friend Jeremiah wrote a post that I thought was intelligent and accurate and found himself the target of outrage by a bevy of PR folk whose nerve ends have become a bit too frayed. PR maven Mike Manuel who has the respect of anyone who see the way he works, had the best one liner of the week when he advised those who didn't like PR: "Go try advertising."
Guy Kawasaki, ran a column on the thoughts of Glenn Kelman, the CEO of real estate startup Redfin on why Kelman thinks he's better off dealing directly with the press without the tag along PR person who he argues, gets in the way of the conversation. In my opinion, it's the best piece yet written on the subject.
Meanwhile, it seems to me that PR folk need to stop bristling and start really thinking about the transformations going on. The term "public relations" is about relationships with the public. You have relationships, as I learned from my wife during 10 years of courting, through listening more than talking. PR as most people practice it today,is more about taking messages from clients to publics. PR people need to figure out how to be a facilitator not of messages but of two-way conversations.
This is not easy and the answer remains unclear. Social Media is obviously part of the solution.
The Internet is the Great Disintermediator. One by one, all institutions that stood between companies and customers are being rendered obsolete. Its true of PR, newspapers, book stores, ravel agents and a great deal more. If Kelman has his way, the list may include real estate agents.
A great number of professions need to adapt. If they cannot handle fundamental and significant environmental changes, they will find themselves in Jurassic Park with the other creatures who could not adapt as well.