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The Future of PR Means Dumping The Inferiority Complex

Last week on Thursday I spent the day at the TurnPROn event in San Francisco focused on the future of public relations.  It was hosted as part of the Online Market World conference, and a relatively small and concentrated event.  Despite the small size, the lineup of speakers was surprisingly good, and included folks like Erik Hauser, Brian Solis and Tom Burg.  Through the event, the topics ranged from the obvious to the controversial.  Some speakers did spend time talking about the future of the press release (BIG yawn) … but for the most part the event fostered some great conversation about where PR is and where it needs to go.  Here were two key highlights I took away from the day about what the future of PR may hold:

  1. Closer alignment with search.  Given the power of search engines and the increasing role that search agencies are starting to play in the marketing mix, there is a natural allegiance that needs to form between search and PR.  Merging editorial calendars and key messages with the nuances of search marketing (both SEO and paid search) was a topic that several speakers mentioned.  It may seem relatively obvious, but based on the number of times I have seen search marketing teams work independently from PR teams is stunning. 
  2. PR pros need to shun their inferiority complex. One of the common threads that manifested itself throughout the day was the inferiority complex that many PR professionals have in relation to other marketing pros (especially peers in advertising).  Having worked on both sides, I know that the budgets can be mismatched, but that at the smart agencies, PR is starting to stake more ground.  This is not about taking orders from clients, it is about more powerfully articulating where a client needs to go and becoming the partner that gets them there.  I happen to think this is an obvious and natural place for PR to be … but PR pros need to shed their inferiority complex and take that leap.

The second point is particularly relevant, as this is something I have steadily noted about the PR industry after spending more and more time recently at inter-agency meetings where PR professionals (from our agency and others) come together with media planning agencies and Ad agencies.  No one is going to hand PR folks their chance to speak up or offer them a leading role.  We have to take it.  The open question here is perhaps about ego.  Are there just bigger egos in other types of agencies?  If not, what else is it that often keeps PR in a subservient role to other types of marketers?  These were the sorts of interesting questions raised during TurnPROn.  Finding the answer seems like the real key to the future of PR. 

  • http://www.swivelmedia.com erik hauser

    Can’t wait for the book:)
    Erik

  • http://feeds.feedburner.com/personalbrandingblog Dan Schawbel

    This is very insightful. I think that search and PR should be aligned, and meet at brand management.

  • http://www.aaa.com/news Janie Graziani

    One issue that might be causing the “inferiority complex” is that in many companies and agencies PR reports to marketing — as if it is somehow a tool that marketers can use to sell a product rather than a legitimate professional endeavor. In companies where the PR team has asserted itself and demanded (and received) “a seat at the table” I think you will find that the PR pros are highly respected by their peers within the company as well as the media.

  • http://www.aaa.com/news Janie Graziani

    One issue that might be causing the “inferiority complex” is that in many companies and agencies PR reports to marketing — as if it is somehow a tool that marketers can use to sell a product rather than a legitimate professional endeavor. In companies where the PR team has asserted itself and demanded (and received) “a seat at the table” I think you will find that the PR pros are highly respected by their peers within the company as well as the media.

  • http://blogworks.in Rajesh Lalwani

    Rohit,

    Very interesting post. In fact, I believe the public relations professionals have an opportunity to entrench themselves even deeper into an organisation, given the need to integrate social media with mainstream marketing/ public relations.

    Wrote about it last week and posting a link, with your permission: link to blogworks.in

    Cheers.

    Rajesh

  • http://massdelirium.blogspot.com/ Stan

    Hi Rohit, very interesting point on search aligning with PR. I’m fairly familiar with SEO/SEM but always from a marketing perpective (that’s the case with most people I believe). It would be great if you could expand on this topic in future, I’m sure many out there, like me, would be interested.

  • http://highered.prblogs.org Andrew Careaga

    In my experience, I’ve found that many public relations folks, especially those with backgrounds in journalism, exhibit more humility than marketing people, especially those from advertising backgrounds. So, what some may consider an inferiority complex may just be humility. That’s not to say some PR folks don’t have an inferiority complex. That could also stem from journalism, where the newsroom and the ad suite are two different social groups, each looking upon the other with disdain.

    The best PR folks understand the importance of letting a good story “sell” an idea, whereas marketing/ad folks tend to approach the pitch more aggressively and arrogantly, and not always with a good story.The days of the hard sell are over, though. People’s crap detectors are too finely tuned.

    When dealing with a pitch, I’ll take humility over hubris any day.

    I speak in generalities, of course, but so does this post.

    Sounds like a good conference. Wish I could have attended.

  • http://www.smak.ca Claire

    Working at a non traditional agency that fuses PR into most campaigns, we recognize the frustrations particulary with traditional agencies that consider PR an after thought. Our most successful campaigns merge PR from the conceptual phase. The future of successful, integrated campaigns will be realized when PR is a primary objective. Marketing directors must demand creative that is buzz worthy and PR-able.

  • http://deep-focus.net Christian Borges

    Rohit -

    Great post, and you’re absolutely right about PR professionals needing to step-up from the kids’ table. As the lines of demarcation between advertising, marketing and PR become less visible, the opportunity exists for truly “integrated” campaigns to not only exist, but to become the rule as opposed to the exception.

    I’ve worked in traditional PR for much of my career, and currently work at a full-service interactive agency with disciplines in creative, media and PR under one roof. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is as a professional to work in an environment that allows for not only the creation of innovative, interactive Web 2.0 experiences, but also has the means to use Media and PR to help drive awareness, buzz and engagement, thus providing for a more robust legitimate value exchange between the brand and the consumer at the end of the day.