The old new rules for PR

I’m writing my dissertation about doing PR using the tools of social media, and frequently come across the notion that the rules for PR have changed. Since I started my research in the autumn 2007, I read many impressive case studies about multi-million success campaigns, started by the word of mouth and, as David Meerman Scott puts it, word of mouse. Therefore I was quite puzzled, when at the Social Media conference in Brussels, speakers were referring to those as “usual suspects” and complaining at the lack of new cases. So I decided to re-read the books, which claim that “all the rules have changed” in the light of my experiences.

There is no question that we have entered what Alan Moore and Tomi Ahonen call “the connected age”, where the consumer is digitally empowered (by being a connected member of largest community in the world – the World Wide Web) and scrutinized about the media content (because of the immense availability of it). But I’m not sure that this has changed the rules of public relations so drastically, as some authors claim.

So following is happening. The Web has changed the landscape of traditional PR and marketing. It is now possible (and the only correct thing) to talk directly to customers (not via third parties) through Web. Following strategy is proposed. Create a funny YouTube video or a podcast and your company will top the Google search and customers will be standing in line, laughing at your jokes, to buy your products and services. Set up a good blog and you will get a bunch of brand ambassadors, virally marketing you wherever they go.

Most importantly, stop pushing annoying marketing content onto the daily lives of busy and intolerant consumers. Engage and involve is the slogan, and those businesses who don’t adjust to the change will soon be scratching their heads and bank accounts.

I have to say, it sounds very easy, like a fairy tale. Makes one ponder why don’t all companies do that? Why would anyone spend millions of budget money on old fashioned PR, when you can get your company up there “in the buzz” for free?

Well, my humble guess it’s because it’s not that easy. One in thousands of YouTube videos becomes noticed by the big audience; one in thousands of blogs becomes respectable and authentic source of information; and probably just one in thousands of online books becomes a bestseller.

I agree with David Scott and Robert Scoble and others, who claim that mass marketing isn’t working anymore. But I don’t agree that everything has changed. Focus group I held yesterday for my research revealed that companies who don’t use third party endorsement in form of journalists, opinion leaders and early adopters, rarely get their message across, as they are not perceived as credible speakers.

Switching media relations with blogger relations doesn’t change the third party endorsement rule: it just changes the third party. Businesses will always need people, whom Malcolm Gladwell calls the Connectors, Salesmen and Mavens. People, who can take an idea or a product and turn it into a meme. It’s not the technology; it’s the ideas, which sell.

But mostly I agree with David Wienberger who says that markets, first of all, are conversations. And whatever rules apply, companies will always need people, like us, who can make these conversations worth while.


5 Responses to “The old new rules for PR”

  1. 1 Richard Bailey April 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Good stuff. I’m glad you read Gladwell!

  2. 2 David Meerman Scott April 12, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Good analysis. I have never said “everything has changed. Offline, the only way to get noticed is traditional media relations and PR. However, online we now have the chance to tell our story directly and that is new. Sadly, few companies do so. Instead they still only beg the media for coverage.


  3. 3 Helena Makhotlova April 13, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Thank you for commenting, David. I think I borrowed the phrase “everything has changed” from Alan Moore and Tomi Ahonen’s book Communities Dominate Brands .

    I found both of your books New Rules for Viral Marketing and The New Rules of PR in many ways fascinating and intriguing. I totally agree that not making use of social media communication tools and over relying on press compares to using one leg instead of two when walking – as a result, you end up lagging behind. However, I do think that we shouldn’t underestimate traditional PR and its remaining power. My research shows that it is the combination of the two which constitutes the most successful PR campaign.

    I sometimes hear people say that arrival of the Web and citizen journalism means the end of public relations. However, the Web is a fragile media channel, and should be used with precaution in marketing. The lack of successful social media case studies indicates that there is still much to be learned. For the moment, using online social media in marketing and PR constitutes just a new theory. And any new theory usually derives its strength from the old.

  4. 4 Bruno Amaral April 13, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    I was not going to comment because I felt I wouldn’t be adding much to the conversation.

    But today I saw a professor talk about our class blog and how her new laptop helps her make better use of her time. And it hit me.

    It’s not a matter of old or new public relations. It’s a matter of context. A blog to help a company sell household cleaning supplies wouldn’t be as effective as traditional media relations and focus groups.

    So, how do we choose wich ones to use? I think it depends on two factors. Values of both sides (the corporate values and public’s values) and the tools used by our publics to communicate.

  5. 5 Roseanna Leifer April 10, 2013 at 3:45 am

    Great beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog website? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear idea

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