From the panel on The Changing Face of PR at the 2006 Corante Innovative Marketing Conference:
The session started with a discussion of whether or not press releases are dead. The conclusion: Press releases are not the be-all and the end-all; they are simply channels through which information is conveyed and conversations started (though they are not really good at starting conversations, because they generally do not include a way for the recipient of the message to respond). The day press releases begain to be published on the web for all to see was the day they began to be a different kind of channel, potentially opening a conversation with a different audience.
The problem is when PR people see their jobs as simply putting out the press releases their clients want them to, and when senior management sees the function of PR as putting out press releases, which to panelist Lois Kelly is “low value,” when “in today’s world, the role of public relations is to be the people who create understanding. You take complex things and you make people understand.”
Shel Holtz agreed: “The main problem with PR is that the] PR profession is focused on tactics, when press relations is managing relationships with various publics…any public that can present obstacles to your being in business….all of these publics are now able to talk to each other.”
So it all seems to come down to the explosive increase in the channels available to distribute information and the fact that PR can’t control all of the channels, much less the messages. What can PR do about that?
Be more honest and open, was the consensus. “The message that things didn’t go as well as planned is a shocking statement for a company to say, but it’s an honest statement…[companies should] show some humbleness but have confidence that the purity of that [humbleness] message should resonate,” said panelist John Moore.
And that too would seem to depend on the channel: “You’re not going to see a company say “I’m sorry” in a press release, but you can on a blog.” — Shel Holtz
The bottom line is that there’s a danger that the changing face of communications is pushing PR toward irrelevancy, cautioned panelist Neville Hobson. What PR doesn’t seem to get is that they can no long completely control all of the messages nor all of the channels through which the messages are communicated.
But at the same time PR people are not exerting control where they can — over themselves and the *way* they do things. Said Shel, “The public side of public relations is changing for sure, because the public is changing…but in a lot of the organizations where the CEO is blogging in most cases it’s not the public relations department that’s driving that, it’s the desire of the CEO, or the new media department.”
So, what would a truly innovative PR department in a foward-thinking company look like?