Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Is PR Obsolete?

By Robin Bulanti
I feel like it’s the real question underlying the conversation last month from everyone from Scoble to Solis to Arrington. It seems like every day there’s someone new weighing in on the conversation, but it isn’t really a new one. I’ve heard the same flavor of arguments on panels at Businesswire breakfasts for more than a decade.

I purposely kept the title controversial—that’s just good PR. Were you expecting to see this question on a PR website? Is it dangerous to even ask the question? Well, then I’ve done my job. I am a firm believer that you have to ask the hardest question of all to get to the real meat.

To actually answer the question is more complicated. Of course I believe the answer is no. PR is not now or going to become obsolete anytime soon. But there is a deeper current here and that is—PR is changing. And how!

Bloggers decry the end of the smart PR person. They crucify individuals for bad pitches, form or etiquette. And there will always be those individuals in any industry who are lazy, don’t know any better, or don’t take the time to do their homework and who will tarnish a reputation for the rest of us.

But for many in the industry, there continues to be a valuable exchange between media professionals (I’m sorry, I count bloggers here too = new media!) and PR professionals. It’s easy to forget that we often come from the same side—some of us were journalists before embarking on a career in PR and vice versa.

PR has changed and will continue to for lots of reasons—the Internet, blogging, social media, on-demand feeds… I can’t claim to speak for all, but in my mind there is still plenty of room and need for the PR specialist. It may be more challenging than ever, but that’s what makes this field interesting. It is no longer (and never should have been!) one-size-fits-all messaging or strategy. What hasn’t changed is this: be smart and know your audience.

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