Public relations: time for a name change?

I've been thinking lately about starting a campaign to rename our industry. "Public" relations just no longer really fits.

I've been thinking lately about starting a campaign to rename our industry. “Public” relations just no longer really fits.

When was the last time any of us recommended a client talk to the “public” at large about anything?

Not to say there isn't a place for mass marketing – the 30-second spot appears not to be dead, as has been previously reported! – but increasingly our industry is about “personal[ized]” relations.

I know that sounds like New Age therapy, but that's actually pretty close. After all, what we as communications counselors are really trying to do is get to the heart of what we want people to do and think and feel about a brand and then find the best, smartest way to connect with them about it.

Despite the ongoing debate over whether it is the medium or the message that matters most, the reality is if you don't get both right, it's still like a tree falling in the woods.

For instance, you wouldn't communicate about a new online tutoring service for teens solely by taking out print ads in newspapers – what teens are reading traditional newspapers? And even if their parents are – arguably the ones who would be paying for the service – if you can't also impact the end user, which is – in this case, the teen – in a highly engaging and personal way, you haven't completely connected the dots.

We as brand PR professionals need to be better – in fact, I would argue, the best ones in the room – at connecting the dots.

If we are charged, as we often are, with seeing and communicating the whole arc of the story, we should also go one better and see the whole arc of channels we should tell that story in. If we get that right, we really have moved away from public to personal relations.

Liz Van Lenten is EVP and group director of the Chicago consumer marketing practice at Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

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