Does PR Matter in the Internet Age? Duh!

I monitor a variety of online forums and recently was engaged in a thread that addressed the question of whether PR (public relations) is still relevant. I was surprised by the question because, in my opinion, PR is more relevant today than ever and is rapidly supplanting the value of advertising.

The difference between the two:

  • Public relations (PR) is unpaid media exposure — you benefit by third-party coverage of your products or services; it’s other people talking about you
  • Advertising is paid exposure — you are paying to place your messages and, by definition, talking about yourself

So, given those definitions (and you can look up your own definitions but they will be, basically, the same…) which do you feel would be most impactful to you as a consumer of various products and services? Stated in another way: are you more likely to believe what I say about myself or what others say (or share) about me?

The Internet has made the possibility of sharing information about others and their products and services more readily available at significantly less cost than any other form of media exposure. Does PR matter? I’d turn that question around to say does anything other than PR matter.

Despite the wired world we live in, and even before it, we have always been most influenced by (and in this order):

  • Our own personal experiences (“I just tried this new restaurant and it was terrific!”)
  • The recommendations of personal acquaintances (word of mouth) – (“You really need to try this restaurant — it was great!”)
  • Third-party endorsements from the media – (“XYZ restaurant just opened to rave reviews!”)
  • Advertising – (“Try our great food!”)

Advertising, while diminishing in value (IMO) is still important and still has the power to influence if done effectively. Public relations (PR) is gaining in impact, I believe, because of the ability to leverage online communities and social media outlets to spread the word in ways that capitalize on personal and word-of-mouth recommendations that can be positively impacted through online PR efforts.

PR today isn’t just about influencing traditional reporters to cover you and your products and services in their traditional publications.

PR today is about influencing anyone with an audience to spread the word.

In a world of “citizen journalists” you can benefit from PR on steroids. Traditional journalists and reporters are still important, but savvy communicators know that any third-party recommendations, referrals or endorsements matter–always have and always will. Advertising on the other hand…

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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