Alright, I guess it’s inevitable that amidst this economic shake up, we would return to the age-old argument of Public Relations vs Advertising, and debating where your business dollars are better spent, and you know, whatever, that’s fine, it’s not without good reason.
In fact, I’ll admit, this was a hot topic at last week’s SMC meetup, and again at this week’s PRSA International conference, but here’s the thing: if we (the PR industry) are going to collectively make the business case for a shift in corporate spending, we need better leverage, and man, if there was one thing we should be leveraging to our advantage in this argument, you’d think it’d be all the benefits and potential of the social web for business, right?
Sadly, the PR industry, for being inextricably tangled with the web, continues to oddly struggle with how best to use it for communications — and therefor, articulate its value and return in this larger argument we’re all trying to make.
And yeah, to be fair, the ad industry is really struggling with this too, so in a big way, the challenge is just seeing which industry can get past its own tired modes and models of business and acclimate the fastest to new attention, usage habits and trending patterns on the web.
For what it’s worth, I think the PR industry, for better or worse, can actually win this race by doing two things:
First, by each of us assuming personal responsibility for where the industry sits today and how we’ll each move it forward. Seriously, to win this bigger argument, we have to become smarter practitioners through professional education, personal learning (through adoption?) and, well, by having a curiosity and a willingness to experiment and try on different approaches to communications on the web; and Second, by realizing that once separate or ancillary business disciplines are now a much, much bigger part of the communications charter. Things like web development, search engine marketing, media production, data analytics, etc., have all become increasingly valuable for communications purposes, and because of that, PR departments (and PR businesses) can no longer afford to draw dotted lines into these disciplines. Something I’ll be blogging about separately, soon-ish.
Net-net, I think a lot of this argument for PR comes down to how diligent and creative we as professionals and as an industry can be about rethinking and reshaping a role that’s been otherwise comfortable, and largely misunderstood the past few decades. If we make the stretch, then right on, we get to reset the terms for determining PR’s business value, hopefully its perception too.
And if we don’t, well, I guess we remain neatly (and reluctantly) relegated to a few bullets in the next business plan. Either way, it rests on us.