The Introduction Post - PR is Dead

Disclaimer: the title is a tad dramatic. My first few posts will consolidate the biggest ideas from the book Trust Me, PR is Dead by Edelman alumni Robert Phillips. Phillips' book, published in 2015 after he resigned from his position as President of Edelman, is an extremely appropriate place to kick off this blog for several reasons.


Before I explain why this book serves as an exceptional starting point for this blog, let me explain the purpose and mission of this blog. The communications and PR industries are tremendously consequential to our lives because they shape the way in which we see our political and economic realities. After all, if reality is only a matter of perception, then the power to shape perception is the power to shape reality. The "perception-controlling" industry is tremendously complex - it appears both as an art and a science. As a result, this industry is the subject of intense academic scrutiny, academic perspectives are often overlooked by practitioners and the general public. My mission is to make these academic perspectives more accessible by taking the time to read and understand them and condensing them into a short-form 350-word post. This will be the only post on this blog to exceed 350 words.


So lets begin. First, let me address your anxieties - no, PR isn't actually "dead." Rather, it's an industry that's evolving so mind-blowingly fast that experts say the PR firm of 2020 will be completely unrecognizable from the PR firm of 2010. There's a reason that Edelman, the world's largest PR company, is in the midst of rebranding itself from a 'PR Agency' to a 'Communications-Marketing Firm' and almost all the competitors are following  suit. For almost half a century, the PR industry has operated more or less the same, but how come now it's suddenly being flipped on its head?


I've selected this topic as the first for this site because appreciating and understanding this unprecedented juncture in time is prerequisite to having an informed understanding of the communications industry. The notion that comes to your head when you think of PR no longer reflects the realities of the industry. Robert Phillips identifies the 5 Primary Threats to the industry that were responsible for the head-spinning transformation happening today;


1. Data & Insight. While other sectors like marketing and advertising can measure their success and calculate their ROI down to the penny, PR is struggling to find an objective way to measure it's own value and success. Without being about to provide the type of data and analytics that big-name companies need to justify their spending, PR gets the "all-talk," smoke and mirrors stereotype.


2. Outcomes, not Inputs.  The Barcelona Principles are a proposed guide to measuring the effectiveness of a PR campaign, but since they're far from being universally adopted, there is still a profound lack of an industry-standard measurement system which leads to further loss in credibility for PR firms. Firms tout that PR is an art form, but art without science and numbers isn't enough to compete against advertising.


3. Networks, not Hierarchies. Ironically, the vertical command structure of PR firms undermines their ability to communicate effectively and 'control the message.' Phillips argues that organizing PR firms in networks as opposed to traditional corporate structures is essential to the new creative agency.


4. Scale. Phillips argues that modern creative work is too tactical as opposed to strategic. This is to say that modern campaigns focus on quick-fix solutions as opposed to long-sighted campaign initiatives that can transform brands at the same pace and efficiency as marketing campaigns. Today's PR campaigns aren't scaling into the future.


5. Talent. According to Phillips, there's too few people coming up with the big ideas that push the industry along and war over talent and qualified staff is looming over the horizon. New technologies and multiplied channels of communication are skyrocketing the demand for a reinvigorated and specialized workforce.