Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Viral Media Predictions

In a recent post, Richard Laermer, one of the authors of the excellent The Bad Pitch Blog wrote an entry predicting that the Internet and social-platforms in particular will continue to wreak havoc on the PR world, making commonly-used tools and methods obsolete.

Laermer maintains that in this world a written pitch will be considered spam, whereas media outlets and other consumers of information distributed by PR pros will view multimedia pitches as informative and engaging.

The post was essentially a warm-up for Laermer's latest book project, 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade, which examines the impact a number of emerging technologies and trends will have on us all and gives some insights into his predictions on which of these trends will go on to be hits and others misses. While I haven't had a chance to read the book, in the interest of full disclosure, it's generally been positively reviewed by those who have. That said, I think one future trend that may be a bit off the mark is the notion that PR, and marketing as a whole, will evolve into something that's dominated by the consumer rather than a company or one of their consultants or agencies. Basically, if someone likes your idea, Laermer believes they'll become an evangelist, much as the way Apple Computer Corp. has always had a core group of evangelists going back to before the company was hot again.

While Apple has certainly had that, something I can attest to having spent many years as a tech reporter and written a few stories that had negative Apple news, I don't think that means most companies can expect to achieve it and/or that most companies will want to market themselves that way. Certainly, some consumer-oriented companies might, but the world is full of successful companies doing all kinds of things that may not be "social-media worthy," but are important -- and profitable -- nonetheless.

So for now, while viral marketing may have some influence on a few campaigns, I'm not sure it's going to be a game changer in the PR world as a whole.

Monday, June 16, 2008

PR 'dean' calls for renewed focus on ethics

Howard Rubenstein, who in many ways is the modern dean of public relations having been a professional practitioner since 1954, made news recently when he called for a renewed, grass-roots effort to help the PR profession restore its lost credibility.

In an op-ed for The Bulldog Reporter's Daily Dog, Rubenstein highlights the fact that too many PR professionals thought practicing PR was synonymous with "spinning and inaccuracies." Since it was the very professionals that were in large part responsible for that belief, Rubenstein believes it's incumbent upon them to help lead the charge to change the reputation of PR and rid the industry of shady practices.

One of the catalysts that leads to the problem, Rubenstein notes, is the way many companies respond to a crisis. Rather than taking on a crisis and dealing with it in a straightforward way, he notes that most companies first insist on a string of denials rather than getting at the crux of the problem. It's up to responsible PR pros, he notes, to push clients to be both ethical and accurate. Those who aren't, he maintains, are failing to perform their true jobs as a company's trusted advisor.

Another reason ethics are not often practiced, Rubenstein believes, is that even professionals who receive accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America pay very little attention to the society's code of ethics in their daily practice. A better solution, Rubenstein believes, would have the PRSA offer a certificate on ethics and have something that agencies and their practitioners could promote.

I have no idea whether Rubenstein's call to arms will be answered, but I dare say anybody who is responsible for selling PR services knows what we're up against. In too many cases, there's a notion among the general public -- including the marketing departments and the entrepreneurs that purchase our services -- that PR involves spin rather than the truth. If we can't explain better just what it is that we do, I'm not sure how we can purport to explain what a current or potential client does and why it's worthy of attention.