Is it time to ditch the 'corporate' and 'consumer' PR labels?

Marketing is full of labels, but few are more resilient than the two that seem to define PR: consumer and corporate.

Are the 'corporate' and 'consumer' PR labels a little outdated? asks Mark Lowe
Are the 'corporate' and 'consumer' PR labels a little outdated? asks Mark Lowe
These terms are particular to our sector and their meaning shifts so much they have become hard to pin down.  

Consumer presumably denotes any activity that targets consumers. Corporate PR refers not to the audience, but to the subject, suggesting a focus on an organisation itself.

You do not need a linguistics degree to see the contradictions. Corporate and consumer refer to different things but are set up as opposites.

I have heard ‘corporate’ used to mean business-to-business activity in contrast to work that targets consumers. 

I have also heard ‘consumer’ denote brand-building as distinct from reputation management, as though the two were unrelated.

The terms are even used superficially to signify a way of looking at the world. 

Job applicants can be described as ‘consumery’ or ‘more corporate’ based on what they are wearing and what they say. 

Labels can be a shorthand to help people make choices. These definitions, though, have outlived their usefulness and are even undermining our value. 

Corporate work, loosely defined, tends to attract higher margins because it is seen as more considered. 

Meanwhile, the consumer label encourages clients to view creativity in PR as something superficial, requiring little thought or application. 

Advertising, with its highly evolved planning function, makes no such distinction and is valued more as a result. 

The labels problem is increasingly clear in the high-growth tech sector, where start-ups place so much emphasis on building a story that touches consumer, analyst and influencer alike. 

Entrepreneurs now see corporate storytelling as a vital way to get consumers to select a brand, inviting agencies to become hybrid thinkers who can frame a narrative that is creative and considered.
So far, only a handful of agencies have managed to transcend the labels, perhaps in the belief that definitions should belong to the definers, not the defined. 

Mark Lowe is the co-founder of Third City

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