Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Public-relations departments don't need us now

I've written before about how public-relations executives have adopted the tools of citizen journalism, turning themselves into publishers and bypassing the press to speak directly with customers.
It's a development that journalists should be worried about. One role we journalists play in the marketplace is as a filter for public relations. But now p.r. pros are learning new, more sophisticated ways to get their message across, build brand trust and keep us out of the equation.
This development should also embarrass journalists. Here's why:
Our world has changed. The media has been altered forever by blogging software and the other tools of citizen journalism. Our readers have found their own voices. Yet many "professional" journalists have reacted with disdain to the rise of the "amateurs."
Many public-relations executives, on the other hand, have done a good job of adapting to the rise of conversational media. They follow developments in the blogosphere. They engage in public discussions with their customers.
And many p.r. pros have started blogs of their own like this and this, taking their message directly to the audience they want to reach.
So it's worth noting that the godfather of the public-relations blogs is closing this week after a year of operation. That's exactly how it was planned. General Motors' launched its smallblock engine blog a year ago to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the small-block engine. And in the past 12 months, GM product managers and mid-level executives have turned the site into a must-see destination for car enthusiasts, engineers and others.
Take a look at the blog. Take a look at what Kevin Dugan at Strategic Public Relations says about GM's efforts.
Then ask yourself if it's time you got over yourself and stopped looking down your nose at p.r. pros, bloggers and the rest of the media world.

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  1. Going around the media and talking directly to the public is hardly new: FDR initiated his "fireside chats" to have a direct conversation (actually, a monologue) with the American public during the depth of the Depression. But the genuine challenge in this bloggy environment is ensure the PR blog is seen as genuine communications (informative, entertaining, worth coming back to every day) and not an HTML advertorial.

    Phil Hall
    PR News

  2. Hi Phil,
    That is the challenge for public relations. And I think that many companies are rising to the challenge. As a journalist, I find it kind of interesting to see that p.r. folks --the people that we in the media are quick to judge as poor communicators -- are doing such a good job with the new tools of communication.
    Journalists should be ashamed that everyone else -- businesses, customers, readers, P.R. pros, etc. -- have mastered the new tools of communication while we're bemoaning the decline of print.