You PR People Are Killing Me

Have you noticed how things keep dying lately? Media things, I mean. Like for example, the newspaper. It supposedly died back in 2007 or 2008, because of the Internet. (I however, and many people, continue to read the Wall Street Journal in its original paper form). This was quickly followed by the paperback book (or hard cover). Those apparently died in 2009 or 2010 after the Kindle/Nook products were invented and made the originals obsolete. For Christmas, by the way, I got a Kindle, and, the hard bound 900+ page-novel 1Q84 by my favorite author Murakami. There’s no pride in flipping 900 pages on a Kindle. I must hold the massive tome in my hands and have the satisfaction that comes when the weight of the right side slowly shifts each day to the left. Then I heard that Twitter killed the press release in 2011, though I still use them – press releases – with success. Just last week, I read a blog about an article that said the Internet died, so I am not sure how exactly you are reading and/or commenting on this. Tonight, was the last straw, as I read that the phone interview is now dead. Really? I believe The Fonz has just cleared the shark. We’re done here.

It’s so funny to me, the hoops you leap through in public relations to assure beyond any iota of doubt that what you do is indeed valuable, serious work. You’re like Matt Lauer with this endless campaign, more to yourselves than anyone else, to prove your worth, as trust me, no one is listening. It’s no wonder this campaign never ends. You are your own worst enemy.

First of all, stop it. Me thinks thou doth protesteth too much. You people, with these proclamations of media deaths, are part of the problem we have in PR with credibility. It’s easy to cast the blame. Is it the early adopter/innovator types who are quick to latch on to the new fads, eschewing the old for no good reason? Is it the newcomers to the profession, whether millennials or former journalists, who have no foundation for what we do, and believe foundation to be irrelevant? How about the agency employees, encircled in their own safe, pink bubble of PR, where all their coworkers do what they do and their bosses do what they do and where they sit around the board room talking about how the client just doesn’t understand it, and where a million hits on You Tube is touted as an extraordinarily successful campaign. Maybe they’re to blame. Because if you spend any time inside a non-PR business you will notice that PR is not exactly a foregone conclusion. In fact, many businesses view it as a pretty expensive accessory to other legitimate business functions with very few measurement standards and hardly any ties to business performance. They don’t care about the tool, the platform, the awards, the hits. They care about profits, customer loyalty and competitive edge. Some care about engagement, to use our latest Bingo buzzword, but only to the extent the engagement thing increases profits. In their world, you are only credible if you speak their language and what you offer has direct impact on their goals.

Please. Nothing has died. And certainly not the phone interview. We’re evolving. The addition of tools to the toolbox doesn’t render the old tools inconsequential. We’re still using the arrowheads and machetes of our early days because we need them and they have a place. When you claim a prominent business tool, that the non-PR world, which is most of the rest of the world, is still using with vigor, you are not only not believable, you seem silly. You are the reason we, as an industry, find ourselves in 2011 publically proclaiming our own confusion about what we do with a national call to rewrite the definition of PR, not because we think the world doesn’t know what we do, but horror of all horrors, because we’re suddenly realizing that the people in our same profession don’t know what we do.

Please. You’re like a wall of sand bags trying to hold bag the tsunami that is the rest of the world’s impression of PR and every time you claim some major mainstream tool is dead or passé, because you’ve decided to forsake it for the latest fad, your credibility takes another dip.

For the love of Pete, stop your declarations. And while you’re at it, get off Twitter for a few hours tomorrow and have a face-to-face conversation with someone about something meaningful. Or pick up a book. It’s a paper-like object with a hard cover. You open it with your hands and turn the pages with your fingers. Enjoy!

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