Media relations acuity doesn't match PR's progress elsewhere

Every year, PRWeek runs an annual feature on the reputation of the PR industry. At one time, the article tended to focus on the "why don't we get any respect" theme, which used to be a very big deal not so long ago, particularly in regards to the C-suite.

Every year, PRWeek runs an annual feature on the reputation of the PR industry. At one time, the article tended to focus on the "why don't we get any respect" theme, which used to be a very big deal not so long ago, particularly in regards to the C-suite.

But about five years ago, thankfully, the industry began to turn away from that tired perspective, in part because there was emerging - within clients and organizations - a much better understanding internally of the function and strategic role of PR, and in part because communicators finally realized they were perpetuating the problem by continuously asking the question.

PRWeek kept pace with the changes. We began looking instead to how PR is viewed by key stakeholders, such as marketing executives outside of communications, and the media. This year, we took a look at bloggers and how they view the communicators with whom they interact.

What the piece reveals is that while the PR industry has certainly come a long way within the business community, it has still not done a good enough job with one of its most important stakeholders: the media (and yes, blogs are heretofore part of the media). And the problem with that is that the media environment has fragmented, expanded, and blurred to such a great extent that it may be too late to turn that around.

First, let's be clear. Interaction with so-called traditional media outlets is not exactly the same discipline as working with bloggers, as we all know. But by that same token, there are nuances in working with broadcast media that don't translate to print. As such, it is a waste of time to parse out the discrete differences in approach that are required for a new media interaction. What is interesting, and disturbing, to note is that the problems that bloggers believe they have with PR people sound precisely the same as the complaints we hear from mainstream media all the time - lack of targeted pitching, irrelevant press releases, and the perception of obfuscation by practitioners.

All is not bleak. Bloggers like Silicon Valley Watcher's Tom Foremski acknowledge that PR pros help them do their jobs. He is able to distinguish between the useful pitches and people and those who waste his time. But it is those very exceptions that strengthen the case for those who say there are not enough communicators taking a thoughtful approach to the very strategic role of media relations, including pitching bloggers.

Can this finally change, even as the perception of PR has moved ahead so rapidly in so many other ways? Frankly, I just don't know. I was speaking to a group of interns not long ago, giving them some advice for penetrating the busy in-boxes and voicemails of reporters and editors. One young woman asked me, in perfect candor and visible frustration, how she could possibly manage to strategize so specifically on individual pitches when she's given a list of 200 outlets to call over a matter of days. That's a damn good question. Does anyone have an answer? Log on to thecycle.prweekblogs.com and let's continue this discussion.

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