A Shifting Horizon for PR

February 3, 2015

Mountains

I often feel as though climbing mountains and rocks is much easier than the uphill climb PR professionals face on a daily basis. When I reach my destination, there’s always an inspiring view patiently waiting to provide insight on my battles. I feel accomplished. In PR, sometimes I can set and send several pitches and never make it off the ground.

Several years ago I fell into PR. I had just come back from Europe with an empty bank account and a looming, despondent feeling that I had still not found my “calling” in life.  After desperately scouring Craigslist, I was hired by a tech public relations firm and thrust into a foreign world of never ending buzzwords. The first thing I very quickly learned about PR was the existence of a layered disdain, and borderline disrespect, for the profession. This has weighed heavily on my mind.  At its core, PR is about managing an image. So how could a profession so concerned with perception have such a perception issue of its own?  Last week, I learned that answer. 

“The PR industry has done the exact same thing for the last 40 years, but every industry around it has changed.” – Seth Levine, Managing Director at Foundry Group. 

“I work in PR.” – I am, in fact, in possession of several journalists’ email addresses. – TechCrunch

Before the Internet, PR was about access. If you had a story or wanted to comment on one, you called on a PR professional who had the connections you needed to get into the publications you wanted. Post-Internet, access is a defunct bargaining chip. Connectivity is anyone’s game. While no longer the purpose of PR, this industry continues to operate as if access is the sole leveraging power of the profession—and the reason I exist.

During a discussion with Seth, he highlighted that the value of PR now lies in helping companies tell a story that will make an impact on a 24-hour news cycle. Positioning. Providing active advice about what story a company should be telling, to what reporter and why, versus promising a company droves of coverage from whoever will write.  And, staying true to Barokas Communications, cutting out the bullshit, pushing back on ideas that may not be the best use of time, and being PR partners – never vendors.

This was such a simple notion, but it completely changed my outlook on the future of PR. There will always be a place for this profession. It’s the role of PR that must adapt.  And for those unwilling to adapt, make way for those of us who are. 

Rachel

 

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