Posted by Amanda Chapel
Yes, you read the headline right. We’ve decided to spare the life of PR’s Paul Rand.
Why? Well, as today is the Bon Festival, the Buddhist holiday to honor the departed spirits of one's ancestors, there'll be no killing. Seriously, because Rand deserves our respect. He is one of the first true mainstream PR heavyweights willing to stick his neck out and weigh in critically as it relates to the whole "traditional vs. conversational" PR debate.
By way of background, Paul Rand is the President/CEO of Zócalo Group, Omnicom's word-of-mouth marketing agency launched last April. Prior to launching Zocalo Group, he served as a Partner and Global Chief Development and Innovation Officer at Ketchum, one of the world’s leading public relations firms. Paul is also on the Executive Committee for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and is widely regarded as a leading expert in Word of Mouth marketing and brand evangelism.
So... when he released a supposed "white paper" earlier this week on behalf of the Council of PR Firms, we immediately raised the pirate flag. With muskets loaded and cutlasses drawn, we were sooooo ready to board and plunder. As you are aware, in the past, by now that vessel surely would have gone down in flame; authors Rand and Rodriguez would have been keelhauled; their children would already have been sold into internships at various conglomerates. Arrrrh!
But no. Paul’s is the voice of reason. He’s not taking a stand, per se. Read the paper carefully and pay particular attention to the last paragraph. It is a Call to Action to consider critically the state of the union and the consequence of what some are calling, “changing our DNA.”
According to Rand...
WHITE PAPER: CRITICAL ISSUES AND KEY QUOTES
We see 5 main areas that make the evolution of the PR practice particularly treacherous. Below we list these 5, immediately followed by the relevant quote from the white paper in italics:
1. The Blogosphere hates influence. There is absolutely an expectation of “autonomy of content.” However, the white paper seems to overlook that fact. The PR business is looking at the online ecosystem as a place where we can not only influence “conversation,” but also use superior intelligence to optimize that influence.
“Consumer-generated media gives organizations an unprecedented opportunity to understand and act on the conversation that now occurs continuously around their products, services, brand and reputation.”
“Waggener Edstrom has introduced what it calls Narrative Network media-mapping and analysis service to assess the impact of conversations across the spectrum of traditional and new media, and also to aid strategic communications programs. Narrative Network maps provide clients with insight on trends and behaviors regarding media and brand perceptions to help develop integrated communications strategies, says the agency.”
2. Can the target, i.e. the persons being influenced, defend themselves? That is, will amateurs be able to discriminate?
Aedhmar Hynes, CEO of Text 100, said: “PR practitioners must be experts in all kinds of ‘media.’ You can’t parse out new and traditional media providers anymore. It’s one in the same.”
[Sidebar: In a recent interview with Rick Murray, President of Edelman’s Me2Revolution, he said that he “didn’t see a difference between PR and advertising anymore." That begs the question, if he, the professional, can’t see the difference, how can he expect the audience to distinguish a difference.]
3. Does the new PR model reduce the practice to a mere Direct Marketing function vs. the traditional “organizational voice”?
Waggener Edstrom’s Lyann Bradley said, “The [PR agency] business model will evolve and tie to the results and impact of campaigns to demonstrate their effectiveness.”
4. Do the tenets of Social Media adhere to our fiduciary responsibility?
According to Brian Oberkirch, “Social media is about connection, not content.; Social media is about them, not you.”
5. Do the tenets of SM include us period? Doc Searls and other Web 2.0 experts would say, “no.”
In August 2005, blogger Dave Taylor, a veteran techie and business expert, raised eyebrows at a Blog Business Summit by claiming that public relations is dead. He insisted that the blogosphere has supplanted the traditional job of public relations.
We highly recommend that you read this paper. Ironically, with our coffers brimming, to call this a critical juncture in the history of our business is understatement. Bottom line: If we do not heed Rand's Call to Action, there won't be a PR industry to discuss.
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The finality of it all, gives me goosebumps to think the next time I pitch a story to Paul Owers of the Sun-Sentinel, may be the last time anyone every practices traditional PR...Yikes!
Love the Don King promotional aspect of this blog, makes me feel like the PR industy is alive.
On the beach chair in Sarasota, FL. FloridaMoves.com
Interesting article as a new practitioner after a mid career change, it looks like I am coming in during interesting times.
As for the influence of blogs, I think it is highly dependent on the subject matter and the person writing. I keep a couple myself, one for my online writing portfolio and the odd article and another for my black and white photography hobby. Both are what I would term destination sites, I direct perspective employers and friends to them (sometimes both)
I do think we have to take ownership of the PR services we provide, I can think of three ad agencies in Toronto that provide PR services (Cossette, BDD, and MacLaren McCann). I can't speak to the quality of their services.
The article should be required reading.