Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, recently said on his blog, “most PR folks don't read blogs and certainly don't understand them.” That's quite a bold and attention-grabbing claim, but it doesn't have any credibility as anything other than a vast oversimplification. A simple blog search would show that PR pros (and former PR pros) are many of the most active and engaged members of the social media sphere.
Many PR pros, especially those in Silicon Valley, are early adopters and quick to experiment with emerging media. Arrington, though, chooses to focus on those that clog his inbox with unwanted pitches. Saying that PR is his “last refuge when I'm attacking a story,” he wonders how PR can remain relevant to clients. Arrington, to be fair, isn't the only tech blogger to take umbrage with PR pros and their e-mailed pitches. A blog post by Edelman Digital's SVP and director of Insights, Steve Rubel, where he writes, “We have to stop spamming people,” actually prompted the TechCrunch post.
PRWeek has always promoted the good that the industry does, but it is also consistently critical of the industry's shortcomings. Yes, canned pitches are problematic, but much worse practices are intrinsic to all industries. Those that say PR is dead are not only hugely underestimating the power of good PR, but they are also denying themselves a vital information channel. A savvy PR pro isn't just a pitch machine, but an invaluable source of information – perhaps even more so in the fast-moving digital age. Reporters are always looking for good tips and trends, and PR people often have access to information ahead of time.
There's no doubt this conversation will continue, but it should not neglect the complexity of the role of PR pros in the age of bloggers, rather than futilely contemplating their relevancy.