Friday, August 26, 2011

Fixing The PR Industry: Does PR Need A Do Over, Starting With A New Name?

Should we be called PR professionals anymore, or is it time for a name change? A recent Ogilvy PR Peripheral Visions Study showed that 76% of respondents (PR professionals that is) believe that PR should be rebranded. Ouch!!!! But that’s not all: in the same survey, 60% revealed that they think public relations and advertising could be joined or blended into a hybrid, which is something I have been thinking about for a while. There are definitely some discussions brewing….

So the 76% previously mentioned? That sizable group hinted that public relations professionals could be called communications professionals instead. But isn't that a tiny part of the battle, renaming what we do? Wouldn't it be more advantageous and make better sense to actually revamp how we do things, rather than simply putting the proverbial lipstick on a pig. How about redefining public relations from the inside out instead of just a name polish?

And if we were to change the name of public relations, what would it be? “Communications professional” sounds somewhat boring (and we have a policy of no boring in our agency). Besides, PR is so much more than a single layer of duties - where do we start or end? While we should probably stay away from anything that puts “media relations” in our name, given that we've been pigeonholed as it is, besides that, shouldn’t we concentrate more on what we do and how we do it – than what we are called? As any PR rep will tell you, your actions are going to seal the deal, not the fancy wrapping.

In my mind, the first call of order is to show our value. Show that we are so much more than what many people think we are, i.e., press release pushers, a pain in the arse, superfluous and so on, and conversely show what we are not, i.e., press release pushers, a pain in the arse, superfluous.

We also need to communicate that we are not miracle workers, and we can't guarantee results in every crisis situation (News Corp., anyone?). PR done best is done strategically, creatively and thoughtfully —not a bandage to be slapped on after the fact. So if we are to rename public relations, we may have to start by clarifying both what we can and cannot do.

To be sure, PR is more personal than ever and it could be argues that our name is going be way of the press release. RIP press release. Moving beyond mass marketing, we are pressed to make new connections between our clients and theirs, telling a deeper and more compelling story to select groups. Looking at how much public relations has changed over the years, and so dramatically in just a few years, then perhaps a name change does make sense.

So what should we call it, ourselves, the industry?

If we don't change the name of PR, we can still go about making changes behind the scenes. The name's been debated before—and it will be debated again—but we can still help the public understand what it is that we do and the immense value we can bring to our clients... and that we're not just singularly focusing on crisis management or media relations all the time.

Questions time!

1. Should PR have a name change?
2. Do you like the name “Communications Professional”?
3. Do we have a perception issue?
4. Do you have a better name for PR that's NOT “Communications Professional”?
5. Is a name change essential, or should we work harder to clarify what PR professionals do?
6. Do you think that renaming PR has more to do with distinguishing itself in-company?
7. What would you do to “fix” the PR industry?

I would love to hear your views on what, if anything, PR should be renamed to.

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