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Why PR Doesn’t Work (and how I intend to change that)

I’m currently reading Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge. In the first chapter, titled “What’s Wrong with PR?”, Brian and Deirdre list 20 reasons why PR doesn’t work (a list with reasons from Guy Kawasaki, Jeremiah Owyang and Dave McClure). After reading this list, I realize that there are some problems here, and I believe I can be instrumental in changing the perceptions of PR as we know it.

1. The client and the PR person or PR firm are not a good match. I, Sydney Owen, do solemnly swear to ensure that I am a good match for my clients, and vice versa. If there isn’t a great chemistry between the client and the person/people handling their PR, the campaign has already taken two steps back. And nobody likes to start from behind. That being said, if I feel that I am not a good match for the client, I will say something. Because life is too short and money is too tight to be half-assing anything. And if we aren’t a good match, there will be sacrifices made somewhere that result in less than 100% from both ends.

2. The PR firm doesn’t understand the product or technology. This is important on all levels, especially to me, as a fresh face in the industry. I bring it upon myself to understand my client and their message, be it a product, a service, whatever they are trying to say or sell. I also challenge my peers and coworkers to strive for the same level of understanding, since we are all in this together. I’m here to learn, and I will ask questions. I will not pretend to know it all.

3. The PR firm hasn’t been properly trained on how to communicate with bloggers or social media. This is the whole reason I’ve been involved in the social media scene before I enter the work force (obvious Twitter addiction aside). Social media is shaping PR in ways that are going to revolutionize the industry. I am engaging in that change before I enter the world outside of the classroom. I will start my career in PR with a solid understanding of just what exactly can be achieved through the use of these tools. I have started to establish relationships with influential bloggers that will play an important part in the future. This is why I’m investing so much time and effort into my blog and my web presence in general. This will help a client someday. The connections I’ve made will enhance a campaign that I will some day a part of. And that’s exciting to think about.

4. The PR firm prefers working with a few big traditional media instead of lots of smaller online media and online channels. Going back to number three, this is why I’m creating relationships with people in different industries online. The way multimedia journalism is emerging is exciting. Knowing how to target those media in different channels online is what puts you (and your firm) ahead of the game. There are a lot of firms that get this. There are a lot that don’t. I hope to help expand media lists to include these online markets. Integrating the new media with traditional media is what will blow the reach out of your campaign out of the water.

5. Marketing (and communications) is not just facts (the when, what, and where), but it’s telling  a story, engaging the community, and being “human”. PR has always been about relationships. Why do people (the client) matter? How can we show that they matter? Who is listening? Now, with social media, we have the means to monitor what people are saying. Social media is about the conversations. The conversations will influence your campaign strategy. Conversations will make or break you. Telling the story in a creative way is always what works. Now we just have more ways to deliver that story.

First of all, if you haven’t read this book, you should (especially if you’re in PR, a PR student, or have any remote interest in where the industry is headed).

What are you doing to better understand the industry? What do you think is wrong with PR? Why doesn’t PR work for you? If you are in PR, how are you tackling these concerns?

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