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Thin air PR

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Tom Foremski compares PR industry to Wily E Coyote running on thin air. True, there is much money sloshing around PR due to influx of advertising money and the ‘digital’ offering that most PR firms bolted onto their services. They obviously haven’t yet looked down…

PR today reminds me of the Roadrunner cartoons. The times when Wily E. Coyote is chasing the Road Runner and notices he is running on thin air, at which point he plummets thousands of feet to a distant canyon floor. That’s how I envisage the PR industry today–about to plummet from a great height.

Tom concludes that no change happened despite much blathering about transparency, ethics and new ways. My experience confirms that and I do not hold much hope of PR firms changing their ways without some serious pain in their business models.

Change in the PR industry will happen because the old ways won’t be as good, or as cost effective as using new media technologies to publish and engage customers. Traditional PR doesn’t provide the same bang for the buck.

It is when the PR industry feels the same pain that mainstream media is feeling right now, a kick in the pants to its core revenues, is when change will happen. But without pain, no change.

My prediction of PR business model demise is based on other reasons. Paying for PR is like sending a proxy to a party. Instead of going yourself you send someone all dressed up, well spoken and polished. It is fake but when everyone does it, it’s sort of accepted. But now when people start going to parties themselves, such proxies stand out. And not in a good way.

I keep running across Silicon Valley companies that have spent no money on PR or marketing. Zero dollars., for example, has managed to attract millions of users for its online apps on Faceback and MySpace for no dollars.

There are many smaller startups who have done the same: zero dollars spent on PR and marketing. They have gotten incredible results from the viral nature of their products, services, and their personal abilities to establish though leadership through blogging and other online engagements.

Theoretically, PR firms could have taught people within companies how to do that but they are not really best qualified to do that. It is like an old dance master, with a repertoire and polished routines trying to teach his own generation how to break-dance or do rap so they can hang out with the youth. Yes, it’s still dancing, just different era, different vibe. An excellent dance-master could manage such a feat but it is a rare individual who can do that successfully. Most will just look ridiculous – out of step and out of date.

But no pain, no change. And given that PR is awash with money right now, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any soon.

via Teblog

Bonus link: PR is a solo voice, a blog is a choir

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4 Responses to “Thin air PR”

  1. Brian Micklethwait
    on Oct 12th, 2007
    @ 10:56 am

    Your blog is (as of now) suffering from Permanent Italic Disease, caused by a slight slip in this posting, at the end of the second quote. Well, it is on my search engine. Every subsequent posting here looks to me to be in italics. I was so moved by this that I did a posting chez moi about permanent italics myself last night. Gist: blog software shouldn’t do this. But is that true? This blog has supertechy readers and commenters. So, Adriana people, does this have to happen?

    The logical thing, to me, would be for the mistake to muck up only the one posting, but for all subsequent postings to remain as they were when posted. How can something you put in a different posting do such damage to other postings? Ridiculous, I think.

    By the way, please feel free to correct this blip immediately. Please don’t keep it, just to make this comment go on making sense. Not that any self-respecting blogger would.

  2. Brian Micklethwait
    on Oct 12th, 2007
    @ 10:57 am

    And what is more, I notice that (as of now, blah blah) my comment is also entirely in italics, which I was myself very careful to avoid.

  3. Rebecca Caroe
    on Oct 15th, 2007
    @ 10:53 am


    There’s a lot of truth in what you say, some PR firms are now offering “online or digital” PR services…. whatever that means.

    BUT there is a time and a place for a rational use of an outsider to, in your phrase, send a proxy to the party.

    And that is when you don’t have the manpower yourself. There is a nice way to use outsiders to help you plan your public profile and help execute it through ‘events’ where audiences can experience the brand first hand and announcements to the printed media e.g. stock exchange statements, annual reports, product recalls.

    Where the questions remain are in the areas of ‘lobbying’ where brands use PR agencies to sell in a story and try and get journalists to try their product and write about it.

    The honest way to deal with this practice is for the printed article to include a reference sources list that includes the name of the PR agency. It creates an honesty measure and also provides a clear link back to the source of the information.


  4. Adriana
    on Oct 16th, 2007
    @ 14:11 pm


    “BUT there is a time and a place for a rational use of an outsider to, in your phrase, send a proxy to the party.”

    Possibly but then it should be your customers, evangelists and fans, not PR flacks. Sorry. :)

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