“The Independent” newspaper has a hand-wringing article about how public relations agencies — primarily big names like Edelman — are bypassing the traditional route to the consumer, which is through the media, and going direct.
Well, duh! Welcome to the 21st century, Independent!
At our agency, we realized that we would have to change the way we do business when Florida’s last full-time newspaper travel editor became her paper’s full-time business editor. That’s an alarming prospect when your business is consulting for clients in the leisure travel and cruise industries — to whom do we send information?
Here’s how the Independent breathlessly sums up the situation:
In generating their own video and text-based digital content on behalf of clients, they are not only taking the bread from the table of a weakened advertising sector but encroaching onto the old territory of television and press companies.
OK, so what’s new here? We’ve always created video content in the form of B-roll and spot news and we’ve been creating text-based content in the form of press releases, advisories and backgrounders for decades. The difference is the media itself, or the means of transmission.
As newspapers shrink and television newscasters eschew provided video, public relations professionals have turned to alternate forms of transmitting our news content. Those new media — websites, blogs, video and photo-sharing sites, and smart phones — have proliferated, and with them have expanded the opportunities to reach a massive consumer audience without the intermediary layer of journalism.
It’s absolutely necessary that we do that today to remain relevant to and effective for our clients. But the Independent still worries:
Mike Morgan, CEO of The Red Consultancy, is doubtful that PR can fill a void in news provision. “PR agencies in a strange way need to become more like news agencies, because we are going to produce more I suspect. That’s the more depressing end of media fragmentation,” he says. “We are not the best at filling that gap and I think it’s going to lead to some trust issues with consumers. Clients still need the third-party endorsement of traditional media.”
Morgan demonstrates a woeful lack of understanding of the way consumers consume news and measure credibility online. They don’t read “traditional media,” they get their information from websites and RSS feeds and blogs. And if they want to assess a product or company’s credibility, they ask their friends on blogs and in online chat groups.
The new way of doing public relations isn’t killing advertising or newspapers. Those media are dying because they are not adapting to a fundamental change in the relationship between information resources and information consumers.
Fortunately, PR is nimble enough to adapt to these changing conditions and modify communications strategies and platforms to speak directly to consumers and hopefully influence their behavior on behalf of our clients.
The secret to achieving those goals is, of course, transparency. Edelman is up-front about what they are doing and why — and they are unapologetic, which is what apparently rankles the hand-wringers at the Independent.