Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tackling Silicon Valley Watcher's Dire Predictions

Earlier this month, Tom Foremski of the influential Silicon Valley Watcher predicted that the PR profession was headed for a fall.

As most of my PR industry peers will attest, "it sure doesn't feel that way." Revenues are up, the pipelines are full, we are once again facing a talent crunch - it's 1999 (well, maybe 1998) all over again.

Tom understands and applauds the micro trends that have motivated this growth spurt: the start-ups are starting up again, smarter & faster than ever, and are looking for sustained & impactful (and IMHO, cost-effective) credibility via PR.

But Tom also calls out darker macro trends that lurk behind the scenes. As he puts it, and I am paraphrasing here, the traditional media that have been PR's targets have fragmented - there are fewer credible mainstream targets, and meanwhile the rise of the blogosphere has ushered in a thousand new influencers, who dont play by the old rules. Meanwhile, Tom applauds the power of SEM and other Googlicious strategies for message dissemination which are not only cheaper but, importantly, can more easily PROVE their revenue impacts.

I'll quote Tom directly now, and will add my two cents along the way:

"The realities are these:

-Companies can sell their products and services with a far lower cost of sales these days, because it is easier than ever to reach their customers directly through search engine marketing and blogs.

Agreed! But, why isn't this an OPPORTUNITY for PR firms? As I've noted in this blog, there's no reason PR firms can't participate in SEM and "blogger relations."

-This means there that there is far less value offered by mainstream media and mainstream public relations in the product and services sales process.

I do agree that the overall power of the mainstream media has been diminished by the influx of new media - Ye Olde Style Publishers are in their descendency; however, the blogosphere is still in an emergent (vs. dominant) stage... Mainstream media will still play the role of unbiased observer, with the best interests of a mass readership at heart.

You can't say that about most blogs: popular bloggers have opinions that matter to select, like-minded readers, whereas journalists cater - professionally, with editorial checks-and-balances - to the masses. There's still value in that role.

(I can't envision a CIO defending a proposed technology purchase to her CEO based solely on a blogger's recommendation. But if Walt Mossberg or Steve Wildstrom or InfoWord liked it? OK, then.)

-Companies know search engine marketing works better than advertising in mainstream media.


-Yet companies still think that being mentioned in the mainstream media is going to help them sell more products and services. There is a serious disconnect here."

Ultimately PR is about influencing credible outlets of information. ANY credible outlet. In the Olden Days, traditional media was the only trustworthy editorial. Nowadays, your favorite blogger’s opinions about the new Treo may hold more water than Walt Mossberg’s if you are considering a personal purchase, but as noted above, I think corporate buyers will continue to rely on traditional media.

In any case: is Tom making the mistake of comparing apples to oranges? PR is NOT Advertising. Advertising + CONTEXT = powerful SEM campaigns. Advertising in traditional media has NEVER enjoyed the benefit of CONTEXT. PR has ALWAYS been about CONTEXT. That's why, if ya ask me (and P&G), PR has ALWAYS been more effective than Advertising at influencing SALES.

Ultimately I take issue with Tom's premise that PR is only about influencing traditional media. Nowadays the good agencies are influencing the traditional media as well as the blogosphere.

It’s all about “influencing the influencers” regardless of venue or even audience size, and being able to subsequently measure the bottom-line impacts.

PR agencies have a very bright future in this wild and whacky new media age: I daresay the smart firms will use this unique opportunity to overtake Advertising in the strategic marketing mix!


Blogger mynewsbot said...

Nice analysis
Are you a news Junkie ?

January 29, 2006  
Blogger HarryC said...

Well said, Todd. Any activity planned and executed for the promotion of business is PR. That includes SEM. Getting relavant traffic to websites and establishing citizenship in relavant online communities is the most important PR function of all for a growing number of institutions. PR is growing in importance. One aspect of PR, press relations, is not growing. So what.

February 03, 2006  
Blogger HarryC said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 03, 2006  

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