PR dead? Not from where I’m standing!

There’s been a lot of industry chatter recently about where PR is headed. Robert Philips and his colleagues at ‘progressive communications’ consultancy, Jericho Chambers would have us believe that ‘PR is dead‘, instead choosing to champion public leadership.

Relations/leadership, bucket/bouquet – call it what you like, in reality they’re the same thing. Robert is right in that communications is no longer dominated by media relations, and rightly so. PR is becoming increasingly about strategic management and being brought in as an integral part of the business model, as opposed to a bolt on simply to get the company name in the papers. But is PR really dead, or this just a branding exercise to distance Jericho from past practices?

The rise of digital media over the past twenty years or so has rather forced PR to become a different beast, a beast it should perhaps have always been. But I don’t think this is the death of PR at all, simply its evolution into something bigger and better, bringing with it a wealth of new opportunities.

Digital Darwinism Evolution Of Public Relations (PR)
Charles Darwin’s ‘Tree Of Life’ Sketch – An Idea That Later Evolved Into his ‘On The Origin Of Species’

The creative industries are going through something of a Darwinian renaissance, and in this great struggle for a continuing existence only the fittest, most adaptable solutions providers will persist.

Advertising is in something of a crisis, having to justify large budgets when much cheaper alternatives could very well provide the same results. SEO is turning to content marketing (PR in all but name) in order to build links and improve search rankings now the shady practices of its infancy carry strict penalties.

PR, one of the smallest and cheapest industries in the creative community has a lot to prove, it’s an industry in growth but it needs to show its value to businesses in more tangible terms, those that clearly demonstrate a good return on investment.

This isn’t being made any easier by those in SEO, social and marketing adopting PR tactics and solutions, bolstering their own more measurable offerings and broadening their scope.

As academic and Share This (Too) contributor, Richard Bailey remarked last week, PR thinking has won, but now SEO, marketing and advertising are increasingly encroaching on what was traditionally our territory, PR may not be the profession to come out on top.

CIPR President, Stephen Waddington has said, ‘there’s has never been such a good time to work in PR‘ and I completely agree. I think we require a digital skill set, but a Victorian mindset to really re-establish ourselves in this age of Digital Darwinism. The great entrepreneurs like Titus Salt, experimented with new tools and techniques, took control and invested in the industry and its workforce and that is precisely what we must do now.

This convergence brings new challenges, but PR has faced tougher times and has always risen to them. There are significant opportunities out there, we just need to take full advantage of them. We need to dare to dream, dare to innovate, and perhaps dare to make the occasional mistake, to learn from them and continue to hone our craft.

Matt Silver

CIPR accredited corporate reputation consultant at Ketchum with an interest in emerging technologies, social business, politics and policy. Fond of fine food and drink. Member of PRCA & CIPR #AIinPR panel.