This week has taken on a PR theme. On Monday night I had the good fortune to spend time with Shel Holtz and Joe Thornley of Thornley Fallis who were in town for 3rd Tuesday Montreal, a monthly social media event. Both of these men understand the changes that social media has brought to PR and have embraced them.
At the same time I was sitting with Shel and Joe, Brian Solis of FutureWorks had a lengthy guest post on TechCrunch on PR Secrets for Startups. This led Seesmic founder Loic LeMeur to take a stance that PR is overpriced, irrelevant and ineffectual for start-ups; instead, he feels getting involved in the community is all that’s really needed. This sparked a lively debate on whether there is even a need for PR with all the social media tools widely available. Everyone from Robert Scoble to Stowe Boyd were chiming in with their thoughts, generating hundreds of comments in the blogosphere, and detailed clarification by Solis.
It seemed everywhere I turned this week, someone was bashing PR and marketing, using the terms interchangeably with equal distaste. (Look here and here for the difference.) The general feelings were that PR and marketing folks have lied to people for so long, that they are no longer to be trusted. And that authenticity and transparency, the tenets of social media, could never possibly be adopted with any reliability by the flacks and hucksters in PR.
All of this negativity towards PR leaves me wondering if poor practices have irreparably injured public relations as a whole. If PR has truly changed with social media, perhaps they’ve done a really poor job of convincing people of that. Or maybe these are still early days and the changes have yet to be proven.
This period in the evolution of PR reminds of what was happening in the advertising industry in the early ’70′s. Back then, advertising as a profession was seen as “innately immoral”, where no standards of conduct were in place and a wild west mentality threatened to have the whole industry regulated by governments. Advertising took steps to become self-regulated. Is PR at the same stage now?
(Update: The Phreadz embedded player has changed since originally posted. Click on the green arrow to play the entire conversation in order, or, click the thumbnails to view individual responses.)
Additional resources mentioned in these videos:
Background on Truth in Advertising: The Robert A. McAlear Memorial Award
Will fake business blogs crash and burn?
The Worst Social Media Ad Campaigns of 2007
So, tell me: what do people really think of PR? I’d love to know.