As we've discussed recently on this blog, PR remains in the hot seat. The latest example of the evils of PR (or at least, the press release) comes from the fake press release issued about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's supposed reversal on climate change.
Instead of coming to the defense of PR, many practitioners are deliberately distancing them from it. Take this example:
I'm a big fan of TWiT.tv with Leo Laporte, and episode 217 featured David Spark as a guest. David runs Spark Media Solutions, which builds "corporate identities through storytelling." The conversation on the podcast turned to media bias, the new disclosure rules, and whether it's possible to be truly unbiased. Unintentionally, Leo and John set up David to talk about his business model (italics are mine):
Leo Laporte Trade media is the most important one.
Jim Louderback Exactly because you are closest to the subject that you cover.
Leo Laporte Right, it’s the beltway problem. If you cover the Washington political scene, and Baratunde, you weigh in on this one…
John C. Dvorak I would rather [read] someone who knows something about Intel who’s an engineer and even a guy who works at Intel [rather than] some neutral observer who doesn’t actually know anything, but they can maybe ask the right questions if they are lucky. The fact of the matter is in the 21st century [reporters] don’t know what questions to ask and they never will.
Leo Laporte Well, you are right.
David Spark By the way this is the model for my business, John. Thank you for setting me up. I appreciate it.
Baratunde Thurston Just $19.95 a month…
David Spark I help companies tell their own story because the companies need to tell their own story. If you ... go through a PR agent, you tell a journalist, then they sell it – you are like selling cocaine cut three times.
Leo Laporte No it’s true.
David Spark You should sell uncut cocaine.
Leo Laporte We all know that anytime you read a ... general press report about a subject you know about, whether it’s poker or Pokemon, you know they get it wrong. They never get it right. If it’s a deep subject they never get it right. So that’s a good point, but I am with you Jim, somebody has to stand above the fray and be editorially pure. Not everybody…
On at least a couple occasions during the podcast, David denied being a PR person -- mostly because Leo refuses to invite PR people onto the show (almost, but not quite, as ridiculous as not allowing PR people to update Wikipedia -- but don't get me started on that), but also because he's trying to distance himself from an industry that can't seem to get things right.
So let's take a look at what David does: according to his own site, he "helps companies build industry voice through social media and storytelling."
Maybe he doesn't issue press releases and call reporters directly, but what he does sure sounds like PR to me. And guess what, it's a damn good model for where PR needs to evolve to.
Chuck and I still talk a lot about PR, but what we're doing for companies is a lot like what David's doing. And it's a lot like what other good PR and communications firms are doing for their clients.
Is PR dying? No, but it's evolving, and you'd better keep up with the evolution.