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.



  1. I like that Jeremy. Couldn't say it better myself. As someone new to the profession, it is easy to get sucked in to the tactics and neglect the strategy. I need to make sure I always step back and think strategy first before running off in to the wild. I think we all do at some point.

  2. Dude, I hope you won't be offended when I tell you I'm not all.

  3. Actually, I forgot one more skill - writing. An important one that is not out there much anymore.

    Mike, thanks. Kevin, no problem. ;)

  4. Fantastic post. Right on the money. The only reason to set up a practice group for blogging would be for marketing purposes or to cash in on the fashion of the day.

    I'm with you on the point that good PR people are all about strategy, counsel, writing and execution. Whatever tools they use to get the message across/engage with stakeholders will be selected and employed based on their strategic value to the task at hand.

  5. As others have said, good points, Jeremy. To be at the C-Suite table, you have to be able to think and act like those there: higher-level, big-picture, strategic thinking. Don't get bogged down in tactics like blogging, news releases, etc.

    There's a reason -- the strategy -- behind those and other tactics.

    Think big, but be able to do the small stuff. Ideally, those are the skills every PR person should possess.

  6. Jeremy; I have never thought that you could build a whole practice up around blogging or any other tactic. There might be people in the organization that can navigate it better than others, so I can live with the "emphasis" label.

    I am a small shop, so in my practice I have to be well-rounded. In fact, I only have one client right now that I would think could be a good candidate for blogging.

    One other, I am recommending a blog-like application behind the firewall, another client I wouldn't recommend any blogging at all, but maybe taking advantage of some social media stuff, or starting a v-log campaign. Anything to make their web site more interactive. All of these are just a minute PART of an overall campaign strategy with measureable objectives. They are tactics, albeit important ones.

    Oh, and when I went to the poll I thought at first they were saying snarkyness, but it was indeed snackiness. I guess that unbuttoned sleeve in your photo finally got you somewhere since you are ahead ;-)

  7. it's quite intersting to see so many blogs on PR globally. well, the good news I'm going to share is that PR pros in India have also started blogging with their personal blogs. It's been sometime though that Indian corporates have tarted using blogs for their PR campaigns.

  8. Jeremy,

    I'm new to your site and completely blown away by the spot-on insights and analyses in post after post.

    As a former (and perhaps returning) public relations "professional," I've been fortunate in the past to work in house at a large global company at which PR was considered a critical function at the table and ranked first in the marcomm mix for strategy and messages.

    This certainly came with responsibilities that many in PR may eschew today: being on top of industry/biz developments every day, knowing the competition inside-out, thinking creatively, communicating clearly and concisely both in writing and in meetings.

    I haven't worked in PR for 5 years now, but will likely return soon. I often thought that working in PR in the dot com age was like playing "whack-a-mole" at a county fair. There were so many media outlets that managing public perceptions and combatting negative stories seemed a tall order.

    The blogosphere has only added to that challenge. But it makes having access to the most skilled PR practitioners that much more critical to the success of corporate objectives.

    Many thanks for your insights.
    -- Paul Davis

  9. You mention the Maine lawsuit against Lance Dutson. It was
    by the agency, which, as Dutson writes, gives the Media Bloggers Association a 10-0 perfect record. Lawsuits will come and go, but it is apparent the bloggers will live on. So, I wonder, how you can say that it "might be true," that blogs are going to be killed by lawsuits?

  10. I know the lawsuit was dropped, and I still believe that it might be true that lawsuits may kill blogging.

    The Maine case wasn't libel or slander, but rather a bad lawsuit because an ad firm didn't like being criticized.

    There will be a lawsuit that will be big that a blogger will lose. It's inevitable.

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