PR is dead, long live PR…

I have only just got round to reading Al and Laura Ries's book: "The fall of advertising; the rise of PR". In a book li...

July 16, 2003

I have only just got round to reading Al and Laura Ries’s book: “The fall of advertising; the rise of PR”.

In a book littered with fun examples, they note in passing:

Advertising is self-directed; PR is other-directed

Advertising reaches everybody; PR reaches somebody

Advertising dies out; PR lives on

Advertising favour existing brands; PR favours new brands

Advertising is funny; PR is serious

Advertising is uncreative; PR is creative

Advertising is brand maintenance; PR is brand-building

So why is it, I wonder, that PR revenues are declining faster than any other marketing segment – and faster at major agencies than anywhere else. The Rieses point the finger firmly at PR pomposity. Ouch. Nothing hurts like the truth.

Most PR consultancies are structured (and endlessly restructured) to pander to the whims of PR people. Ask a senior PR person what they do and you will hear phrases like extending responsibility, aligning stakeholder demands, championing integrity, supporting co-operation, generating mutuality of respect, mitigating conflict, facilitating value exchange. Either that, or you’ll hear – ‘we get stuff in the media’.

But both are actually nonsense and neither represents what PR is really there to achieve. These descriptions are not what PR people do – these are simply observations on ‘the way’ we do it. The PR code, if you will.

What PR does is build brands – better than advertising; more resiliently than advertising and faster than advertising. It so happens that advertising is less effective than it was and that PR is vastly more effective.

PR has the tools to connect organisations to people while balancing personal and corporate meaning. In other words. PR is today’s branding tool of choice.

If the PR industry woke up to the implications of that role, the world would, almost accidentally, be a much better place. Great communications process should simply be a part of real branding; not a substitute for it.

Learning brands – the brands of our transparent future – are, de facto, built by their stakeholders. Only the PR industry has the tools to build brands in this new era.

We should remember where we left the toolbox – and hope to god that we didn’t throw away the instruction manual.

PR builds relationships; relationships build brands; brands build companies.

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