Editorial: Don't fear the other media disciplines

This election campaign provides a timely warning of the issues facing the PR industry. This week, Sheila Gunn, former press secretary to John Major and the Conservative candidate for Slough, shares her experience of how political campaigning has changed (Analysis, p15).

She identifies that media spin-doctoring has, to some extent, been replaced by more targeted, more refined marketing techniques. These methods identify demographics, profile individuals and carefully tailor messages to the critical voters. Much of this work is carried out by direct marketers rather than media relations specialists.

Elsewhere there is evidence that media agencies are also muscling in on PR's traditional territory (Feature, p20). The advertising industry is struggling to cope with media fragmentation and the threat of personal video recorders, which can screen out ads. It has been assumed that PR will benefit as organisations look to techniques where messages can be interwoven with content.

But many media planning and buying agencies are reinventing themselves to offer their clients solutions that often encroach on PR. These could be publicity stunts, sponsorship or advertiser-funded programming.

But PROs should face this threat with confidence. Media relations, the fundamental skill of PR, remains a powerful tool, best run by experienced specialists. And this gives PR a natural advantage in areas such as sponsorship and advertiser-funded programming where editorial judgments are invaluable.

Media buyers often find it difficult to connect with programme makers.

There is also an opportunity for PR people to develop their skills in related communications areas. Many PROs have excellent access to senior clients, whether CEOs or marketing directors. The successful ones will be those who are well aware of a vast array of techniques at their disposal, and who are able to advise on exactly the right solutions for a specific PR challenge.

Rather than retrench, the way forward is to be more open-minded, tailored and, as ever, more innovative.

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