Thursday, May 04, 2006

PR's Killer App

This past weekend, I did something that most normal people do. I met up with some people for a little soiree, then went out to some bars.

They weren't Web 2.0 people. They weren't bloggers. They had no idea that they were in the presence of Internet famous PR hottitude (go vote for me ;)), according to ValleyWag. They were PR people, though. Well, some of them were, and others were just normal people with normal jobs, or even online marketers that just don't care about blogs as they see the click-through value for ad buys.

So, one asked me what I do at the firm. I noted that I am a PR person that specializes in blogging - note that emphasis, as I will get back to it later.

His comment was that blogs are a fad that are going to be killed by lawsuits. Which, well, might be true. Hell, I wrote about the issue of blogs and libel so long ago, I forget what I wrote. And, well, the Maine case makes me seem prescient.

Recently, though, Daniel Bernstein of Bite PR wrote that the killer app of PR is blogging and needs to be handled by the senior counselors of public relations. And, well, he got slammed by some top bloggers - David Parmet wraps it up quite well in a couple of posts, including fisking Bernstein's response - and Bernstein did an okay job defending against the rabid fans of PR blogging.

It's wrong though. Yes, blogs are an important part of PR, and will continue to be. And, blogs are giving way to vlogs (check the SF article) which are an even better form of viral communications. And, while I love being known as a go-to guy for understanding blogs at work, at the end of the day, I am a PR person that has a blogging specialty.

In my pundit post (yes, the Wings ran into a hot goalie), Kami Huyse and Mike Sacks both posted good points and questions. Huyse noted that she disagreed that blogging is going to be its own separate practice area, but that it is important to have the other skills as well. Sacks noted that blogging is not complex enough to have its own practice group, and that the strategy is pretty simple.

Well, they are both right and wrong, but I can agree with their points. Blogging does not need its own separate practice area because it is merely another avenue for media relations. Yes, it's different than straight media relations, but it is about building relationships with bloggers and being smart. This is something that all PR people should have. And, while blogging and consumer generated media seems simple, it is so fraught with land mines it is never simple strategy, but more complex than straight media. It's a mix of guerilla and word of mouth and relationship building ... with a light hand. But, does that mean it needs it's own separate practice area? Nope.

That's what I mean by PR person with blog specialty. It's what we should all be - a generalist with skills in a wide range of PR practices. We should all be able to pick up the phone (yes, the phone) and pitch a reporter. We should all be able to email a blogger and smartly reach out to them. We should all be able to write a tactical and strategic plan for a client. It's all the skills together.

And, that is what matters. The killer app in public relations is not blogging, nor media relations, nor guerrilla marketing, nor word of mouth campaigns. The killer app in PR is counsel and strategy, a part of PR that has gone missing, and a big reason we lost the seat at C-suite table (well, this is my belief). Yes, I have written in the past about that marketing and communications are coming to a convergence, but the seat at the table is more marketing than communications.

Well, we should take it back. The seat should be communications because we tend to be more transparent than other disciplines, because we are at the front lines of public relations (remember, that the P stands for public, not press). We see what is happening - and see it faster because of blogs and CGM - and we know how to react and be smart about it.

The PR seat at the C-suite table should be agencies and people that can think strategically and tactically, understand the new media landscape that is both CGM and mainstream, and be able to talk to all groups. The killer app in PR is the skills we should have - but lost along the way - that we need to find again to push us forward in marketing communications.

Then, we can leave the kiddies table and join the C-suite adults.
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