Industry pundits are missing the real reasons for PR’s rising popularity

Ad Age’s Jonah Bloom has awakened to the rise of PR in the marketing hierarchy and devoted his weekly editorial to it.

That said, he credits the dynamic Miami ad agency Crispin Porter Bogusky and its "subservient chicken" kind of non-traditional advertising approaches focused at consumers and journalists as the main reason why PR is gaining in importance. There’s no doubt the high-flying Crispin, which recently appeared on the cover of BusinessWeek, is re-writing all the staid rules of the oh-so-staid advertising business. But, Bloom is missing the larger, digital part of the equation in his analysis.

Instead of exploring how well-equipped PR is to lead the digital revolution, how people like Steve Rubel are doing just that, and how digital, in turn, is helping to re-write all of the basic marketing rules, Bloom chose instead to go down a different road. He interviewed my good friend and fellow Mets fan, Julia Hood of PR Week, and asked why PR has become so "hot."

Julia responded by saying certain sectors like health care and tech are helping fuel PR’s growth and, get this, that the growth is coming from the mega integrated marketing agencies who are sending more and more referrals to the PR brethren within their holding company ranks. Oh brother.

Not only do they fail to mention the digital trend, but they cite big agency/holding company referrals as a key reason why PR is doing so well.

The real innovation in PR that is driving our industry’s growth and dramatic move up the food chain is coming from the non-holding company world (just check out what Edelman is up to these days). To ascribe our growth and rising prestige to a Y&R throwing a few more bones to a Burson or an Omnicom ad agency inviting a Porter, Fleishman or Ketchum to help pitch an integrated account is both disingenuous and disturbing.

If you want to find the Crispin Porter Bogusky of the PR world (and the catalyst fueling our industry’s upward movement), I don’t suggest looking within any holding company. There’s way too much turf-fighting and focus on pleasing the REAL clients (the Sir Martin’s and John Wren’s), then there is in redefining and reshaping public relations.

9 thoughts on “Industry pundits are missing the real reasons for PR’s rising popularity

  1. If Edelman represents the future of PR, then we are really in trouble in this industry.

  2. Edelman’s innovation, excuse me?!,-Betting-It-All-on-Anarchy.html
    Rising prestige?!
    In light of PR’s huge rise in revenues globally, regrettably the powers that be are NOT going to acknowledge there’s a problem.
    BUT, the day is coming when the negative industry perception WILL result in a huge and dramatic backlash. Imagine a world where PR is just rejected out of hand. It sure looks like that day could be here sooner than you think.
    – Amanda Chapel

  3. Fisking Times Two, New Wires, Punditry

    What happens when one blooger gets sick for a couple weeks? Well, the Blog Run lacks posts. Im back on my feet, and ready to post again, so here we go
    The Flack: I Tube, You Tube, We Tube
    While the blogging pundits love to espouse what…

  4. I totaly agree that PR would have risen with or without digital. What disturbed me about Bloom’s editorial and Hood’s comments were: 1.) That Crispin Porter’s antics were responsible for PR’s ascendancy and 2) that our overall industry growth is the result of ad agency holding companies tossing bones to their PR brethren.
    Public relations is in a great position right now because,as you say Shel, we are uniquely qualified to build relationships and foster dialogues with existing and emerging audiences.

  5. PR’s ascendency has to do with a lot more than just social media. Look at Al and Laura Ries’ book, “The Fall of Advertising, the Rise of PR,” Joe Jaffe’s “Life After the 30-Second Spot,” or Sergio Zyman’s “The End of Advertising As We Know It.” Advertising is suffering — and has been — from a number of problems, including audience disperesion, diminished credibility, and rising costs. This would have happened without the advent of social media.
    Good PR, meanwhile, has always been about building relationships, so it’s positioned extraordinarily well for the era of social computing, which is all about relationships.
    And by the way: Digital has been around for 3 or so years? What in God’s name was I doing in CompuServe’s PR & Marketing Forum back in 1988? Online analog?

  6. i see that you are totally behind it, but it’s my opinion that you are in the clear minority. digital has been around for 3 or so years, so if folks don’t get it yet, i doubt they will.
    as far as my field, info sharing is not common practice. best practices as they relate to selling are sometimes covered in the industry rags, but that is about all. in my industry, a rising tide for one means calm seas for someone else.

  7. I-man: I’ve been talking about digital for some time because I TOTALLY believe it’s the future. As was the case with many other revolutions, some people (like you) simply didn’t “get it” at first. As for sharing the news about digital, I don’t believe in withholding information. If you’ll recall, I was only too happy to share what we were doing in the areas of sales, partnership development and crisis simulation. I’m a big fan of the PR industry as a whole and believe that a rising tide will lift all boats. If someone can do a better job in the digital marketing arena, my hat’s off to them. I’m saddened to see that sharing information doesn’t seem to occur in the medical supplies field. Are you afraid someone might make a better pair of surgical gloves?

  8. in reading this blog, i had 2 reactions. the initial one was that here is yet another case of pr execs not talking about digital and thereby downplaying its significance. i truly believe this is a fad and maybe this was more “proof” for that point.
    however, as i was going to write that response i came up with a question to pose to the repman and that is the following:
    you clearly believe digital is here to stay and is so important. you also believe that it is a key area for pr pros to own. with so many others clearly not seeing this as evidenced by this article and the IABC survey, isn’t this something you could/should be using as a competitive advantage in new business pitches? meaning, why are you out there all day sounding the digital alarm and telling people to wake up. in my biz, if there was a trend that had huge potential, i wouldn’t be telling the world about it- i would keep it close to the vest for as long as possible and capitalize on it. after all, you don’t see Coke owning a blog telling the world that it’s formula is so good that others should do the same…
    the fact that you have to keep telling the world that blogging and digital is the big thing tells me that it aint so big after all, cause if it was, you wouldn’t be telling us.