Remarkable how a phrase like “Who needs PR?” can serve both a positive and a negative position.
On one hand, the question can be read in the active sense. “Who needs PR?” is an invitation and a challenge to consider the importance of promoting your business or organization.
On the other hand, the question can be read in a dismissive way. “Who needs PR?” is the cynical view, as in, “What use is Public Relations, anyway?”
In talking with Public Relations professionals, you find that this dichotomy, the yin and yang of PR, is the one constant about the PR business everyone seeks to resolve. If you do PR for a living, the question is active in the sense that it drives your pursuit of new business. The old way of finding clients, tearing through print publications for prospective clients, digging up lists and referrals, and networking, is still valid. But so is mining online leads through search with a dizzying array of keywords and online tools from LinkedIN to Twitter and beyond.
The Question “Who Needs PR?” remains difficult to answer definitively because the question of what constitutes Public Relation has been firmly on the move for some time. Even if you’ve just placed a major story for a client and covered the gamut of channels from print to Social Meida, the logical next question is, “What’s else?” So the Public Relations process is never, ever finished. It never has been. That is why some people in the business state that “You begin to lose a client the day you land one.” Silence may be golden to some, but not in the PR business.
That does not mean it pays to thrash about or work on a short rope either. Good Public Relations takes planning and luck and the occasional editor or writer who likes your work. Then again, real, positive relationships, connections that deliver the goods in PR, take time to nurture. And how many bosses and clients fail to appreciate that? Those are the people who ask, often cynically, “Who Needs PR?” They figure it happens either by magic or because they simply deserve good things in life. But that is seldom truly the case.
When you do have those productive relationships in place, then the means of delivery of the message do not matter so much. Be it email, letter, Tweet, post or personal delivery. They are all techniques of the same order: to deliver or exchange information.
PR clients first and foremost want to hear that their company or organization is being talked about, promoted. With Social Media monitoring tools now capable of listening in on the faintest twitters and mentions, the conversation begins to sound like the inside of Mel Gibson’s brain in the movie “What Women Want.” Walking down the street, the Mel Gibson character could hear everything going on inside the minds of women. That’s exactly how Social Media would sound if amplified, but with analytics to help put it all in perspective when the conversation is through.
So the answer to the question of “Who Needs PR?” continues to change even as we ask (beg) the question. Everyone needs good PR if they know what’s good for their business or organization! But the new question is this: “What constitutes good PR in an age of perpetual conversations?” News and opinion about your brand, your mission or your person can change by the minute. With trillions of communications occurring every day, it’s good if someone is talking about you at all, right? But the nature of that conversation is what concerns us, and the question “Who Needs PR?” becomes a qualitative, not just a quantitative issue.
The job of the PR professional has never been just to create a buzz and let it wander. Although that might be fun in some respects, it does not fulfill the aim of delivering a positive message on its own. But now more than ever the answer to the question “Who Needs PR?” is a matter of dynamic urgency as much as calculated messaging.
That means the answer to “Who Needs PR” is “Anyone with the brains not to ask the other, more cynical question.”