If you’re in PR, as I am, there’s always a bit of soul-searching along with ire when your profession takes a hit. The latest case in point is a blog the other day by marketing expert and PR extraordinaire Seth Godin.
In his blog, Godin faulted most PR firms for doing publicity, not PR.
“Publicity is the act of getting ink,” Godin states. While “PR is the strategic crafting of the story.”
Godin, of course is a PR extraordinaire himself. Think of marketing whizzes and gadflies and more than likely the first name that come up is his. In fact, like a celebrity, you can just say “Seth” and any market-savvy person will know whom you mean.
And, his latest PR firm salvo is PR genius itself, a readymade self-generating PR machine. In fact, my own post is proof of that.
And, yet, I find myself taking issue with his point.
Public Relations, as anyone worth his PR stripes will tell you, is not simply the issuing of press releases, which sprinkled like seeds, can occasionally germinate, but won’t create a bountiful harvest.
Instead, PR practioners excel at creating messages and themes that together create a story. It all begins with strategy, not tactics. It’s the concept of personal branding writ large. Before you can promote yourself, you need your elevator pitch, your personal story about why anyone should give a you know what about you and what makes you unique and special. The same goes for a company. Think Ritz Carlton and you think extraordinary service. Think Amazon and you think the easiest-to-use bookstore-and more in the world.
My firm, and I know many other PR firms (and we invite you to see how we work, Seth), first spends time with our clients getting inside their skin so we understand their business and how to talk about it in a way that resonates for clients and prospects. From that, we craft messages, and yes, stories about executives and the brand.
Seth’s distinction between publicity and PR is too pat. Yes, I confess, as a PR person we are interested in getting ink for clients. But it’s not coverage for coverage sake but part of a coherent strategy that helps build a client’s brand. And, while, I’m sure there are PR people who fling out meaningless press releases like they are tossing pancakes, that’s not what any serious practioner does.
What in fact is the biggest challenge in PR today is that the media world as we know it is deconstructing as traditional media tries to find its place in this wired world where anyone can be a publisher and the price of content is often free.
That means that practitioners of PR have a zillion more platforms besides old media to tell a story and get people talking be it in self-published articles, blogs, forums, video, Twitter, Facebook…you name it. But none of this bounty frankly means a damn unless it is crafted with strategy and at the end of the day tells a coherent story. The challenge frankly is understanding how to use all these new tools and meld them together in a coherent, compelling way that encourages interaction.
So, Seth, I couldn’t agree with your story-thesis more. It’s just that’s what any good PR person (and there are a lot of us out there) does.