Has PR finally spun itself into a distorted definition of the profession? Are you really doing PR if you're bypassing media outlets—whether traditional or online—and going direct to your client’s customers?
The drive to social media, sometimes at the expense of established forms of PR, has seen many so-called PR practitioners move from pitching to the media to selling directly to an audience.
It doesn't matter whether they're selling information, clothes, or coupons—they are selling it direct to the audience. So are they advertising or PR-ing?
It may well fall under the broad umbrella we call marketing, but there are many who would argue that it isn't PR by any stretch. To many people, PR fundamentally involves generating editorial by pitching something newsworthy to a media organisation.
Others suggest the selling of information automatically qualifies as PR—regardless of whether it’s pitched to a media outlet, or direct to a market.
Those who worship at the altar of all things new may want to shoot the messenger rather than address the issue. Before being branded a heretic, Luddite (or worse), understand that this is not about the technology.
Yes, social media is a game-changer. It is incredibly powerful and getting more powerful by the day. It can be an amazingly effective and wondrous thing. Social media is fab. OK.
But has social media, which has also become a stomping ground for self-promoters and snake oil salesmen speaking in tongues, duped many as to what PR is all about?
It’s an important question. Because this is about defining, or possibly needing to redefine, what it means to do PR.
Certainly, that definition has shifted in recent years, depending on who you are and what you do.
The debate probably begins here: If you're pitching direct to an audience—as opposed to some form of media outlet for editorial coverage—should you not define yourself as an advertiser and not as a PR professional?
Brian Johnson is the author (and an unashamed promoter) of The Little Red Book of PR Wisdom www.prwisdom.info.