PR in the Land of 140 Characters

In these days of “life in 140 characters” and the death –or at least starving — of traditional media, I’d like to suggest that keeping to the tenets of traditional PR is more important than ever.

I don’t mean to say that many of the old PR tactics are not just that – old. I mean the goal, the shoe leather, the desire, the FUN and (most importantly) the credibility of communication, are more important than ever.

Good PR has always been about relationships and credibility – and it remains so – only more so.

In the past, the PR team needed a good understanding of the company, the products and the people it was promoting – as well as an understanding of the end audience. Today, through Twitter, Facebook, users groups and conferences, PR needs to play an even more active and visible role — because they are communicating not just through the filter of a third party (reporters) but directly to end users and other influencers. To do this, today’s practitioners need an even deeper understanding of what they communicate and to gain that understanding, it is more important than ever before to live and breathe not just INSIDE, but OUTSIDE the company as well. Now more than ever, we the PR team, need to communicate BACK to the company what is happening.

Credibility. Of course there are horror stories of PR behaving badly, or enabling a client to behave badly. Mass mailings, intentionally misleading, outright lying – yes, PR has had its share. But I’d argue that good PR was always about fostering trust by being credible. This too – is more important than ever. Press releases (now not just for press – but for end users) stuffed with superlatives were never credible – now they are laughable AND open for attack by the community. Social media now provides wonderful forums to analyze – and yes mock – offending communications. Our identities and our agendas are known and trying to disguise those will do far more harm than good … People have tried and been caught.

And those who have been paying attention — those who really believe in their clients and their profession, will emerge stronger than ever. Those who haven’t, those who have used PR as a stopover for some other career — the ones who, frankly, are most to blame for the shoddy reputation this profession has sometimes received — will get an early push to whatever else it is they were meant to do.