Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right,
Here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you …
For decades the practice of public relations has been a somewhat symbiotic (love/hate?) relationship between the press and the practitioner. Journalists needed stories, quotes, facts and pictures, and PR folks needed coverage so as to reach their intended audiences.
In the end, the journalist had the upper hand as there was really no other practical way to reach the public except through mainstream media (MSM). From a journalist’s perspective, the relentless assault of spin by some bad apples, not to mention ignorance of the media, could be wearing. But PR practitioners too would get tired of playing naive and trusting Charlie Brown only to have the football of media coverage pulled away at the last minute. Thump.
Then came the great liberator, or disintermediator, the Internet, and after a time the real killer app, social media.
Today, practitioners have more choices in how to reach their audiences (as illustrated in this gratuitous two minute video, designed mostly to teach me YouTube skills).
PR pros need only follow the audience to determine which arrows to draw from their quiver to execute any particular campaign.
Much of that audience is on the web. To no one’s surprise, Canadians are spending more and more time online. Consider the recent Internet Advertising Bureau study, as reported by Kirk Lapointe on themediamanager.com. Or my own recent review of audience trends and the impact on MSM.
Does this radically change the foundations of PR? Not really. Like all good communications campaigns, the determinants of what media and messages to use will be centered around strategic intent and least cost per thousand impressions of the appropriate demographic. AKA my old friends from my print advertising days, reach and frequency. Consider this thoughtful post by Bill Sledzik on his blog ToughSledding; PR is still more about strategy and less about the tools employed. As Sledzik notes, the building blocks are the same.
The new wrinkle is, of course, conversation. Campaigns are no longer uni-directional broadcasts, but an engagement with the audience.
It would be foolhardy to say PR practitioners could ignore MSM, or eschew it entirely in favor of online media, but to ignore social media and stay focused on MSM alone will be to your detriment as a professional communicator.
Good grief people! In the words of Charlie Brown
In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back
Dive in to social media as a user, not with the expectation that it is a panacea to your communications woes, but instead espousing the philosophy that carpenters need to understand hammers, even if they don’t use every one.
Next post, how and where to dive in.