It’s third and long for PR

L1354308971Despite all the feel-good prose our industry trade groups and media pump out on a daily basis, the fact remains that advertising remains the A Number One, Top of the Heap marketing discipline. Period. And, one need look no further than the pre-Super Bowl buzz for confirmation.

The Super Bowl really is the litmus test for how far PR has come, and how far we still need to go.

Case in point: Has your in-box been flooded with innovative PR pitches by Super Bowl sponsors? Have you been deluged with videos of imaginative special events or guerrilla marketing campaigns from PR teams? What about chatter you've read on amazingly cool corporate social responsibility programs that transcend the game, the sport and life itself?

Not a chance. The web has been buzzing with content from one, and only one, marketing disciple: advertising. Everyone's been passing around crazy, counter-intuitive and just plain breakthrough sneak peaks at Super Bowl TV ads.

Let's get real. Everyone is talking about the ads from Mercedes and VW. And, no one, repeat no one, is mentioning ANY PR campaigns from ANY agency on behalf of ANY client.

I think the Super Bowl is yet another wake-up call to the movers and shakers in PR who have been declaring victory over our advertising and interactive brethren for some time now. It's a wake-up call especially to those editors and trade group presidents who keep assuring us that PR is THE communications channel of the here and now (as well as the future).

While we may be slowly winning the war within the hallowed halls of Corporate America, we've made no progress whatsoever in enlightening John Q. Public. He doesn't know we exist. And, his daughter thinks all we do is plan parties for Hollywood celebrities.

I'm still at a loss as to why the PRSA, Council of PR Firms, the Arthur Page Society, PR Week and other powerhouses don't pool their discretionary incomes and do a little consumer-facing PR for PR.

I can't speak for other PR professionals, but I am SO tired of answering friends' questions about whether Coke, BudLight or Geico will have the best Super Bowl commercial this year. For the record, I tell them I'm a PR guy, and know as much about advertising as they do.

So, enough with all of the self-congratulatory articles about PR winning a seat at the table. How about an industry-wide effort aimed at getting Joe Six Pack to forget about Amy Poehler's Best Buy commercials and, instead chat up Ketchum's CSR work for FedEx?

When it comes to winning the hearts and minds of American consumers, neither the 49ers nor Ravens will end up on top. Advertising will.

To put it in football terms, PR remains Mark Sanchez to advertising's Peyton Manning. And, to make matters worse, PR simply doesn't have a Roger Goodall to set the record straight. As a result, it's third and long for our industry.

So, who's going to step up into the pocket and complete the long overdue pass PR needs to play catch-up in the Super Bowl of consumer awareness? Would that Joe Willie Namath had attended Syracuse instead of Alabama.

And a tip o' Rep's cap to Brian Mieth and Thos Powers for suggesting this post.

3 thoughts on “It’s third and long for PR

  1. Good post, Steve, but I see Sunday’s big game entertainment (the commercials) as just that. Some people are game purists but many are truly entertained for a few days by the non-game activity. And isn’t it the media relations around the commercials that creates the buzz? As far as John Q. Public (and his sister), if he’s really marketing savvy, we want him (her) to come to work at America’s Leading PR Firms. In fact we are putting money toward an awareness effort about great careers in PR (Watch for the launch of the Council of PR Firm’s Avery Campaign later this month). I’d rather like to think of us (PR pros) as the wide receivers that Colin Kaepernich (CMO)looks for down field for the big plays. Steve, thanks for continuing to push for the PR industry to take home the game-day trophy.

  2. Thanks Kathy. PR may be pushing people to watch the hottest ads, but my point remains the same: 99 percent of American adults and youth understand advertising. And many young people pursue a career path since it appears so glamorous. The few young people who think they understand PR see us as pure party planners (which, while it may seem glamorous, is as tactical as it gets). What PR needs is a grass roots awareness campaign at the middle and high school levels. I’d like to live long enough to have someone ask me what I thought of Padilla Spear Beardsley’s PR campaign for 3M at Super Bowl CIII.