Public Relations goes the way of the Edsel

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Lester.

jokes overWhat killed public relations? Lack of support from clients and marketers? Loss of trust from the journalistic community? Did advertising finally win its long battle for dollars PR fought desperately to win from marketers?

Ironically, it was none of the above yet in part, all of the above.

The already well-funded PR industry had been disparaging the advertising industry for years in its battle to win not just its share, but all marketing dollars. Winning that battle inadvertently lost the war. While gobbling up revenue from advertising and effectively shuttering their doors, the public relations industry destroyed the hand that fed it. Without advertiser’s dollars to support them, publishers were unable to support the lavish editorial environments that PR folks so loved populating with their brilliantly engaging audience experiences. As revenue plummeted, one by one, publications cut page after page as they were forced to cut budgets. Eventually, journalists had no space to place their stories and were forced into writing reality series and illustrated romance novels. In turn, trusted public relations professionals had no one to pitch their beloved stories to. And so it went until another industry was destroyed by its own need for greed.

The golden days when PR and advertising worked hand in hand to market for their clients ended when the last of the global marketers decided it had enough with busy executives overlooking their expensive ads. It tired of audiences passing at warp speed by their beautiful images of watches and jewelry, their demonstrations of financial security, their sexy images of fast cars and gorgeous fashion. Alas, PR convinced all that it held the only justifiable key to the secret of every marketer’s dream.

If only they could have realized that had they worked more closely together, if they had truly put their brilliant, individual skills to the test in one unified effort, they could have all survived. If every marketer’s campaign was based on a truly unique point of view, a truly individual voice that lived across all media, they could have all thrived.

Were there some bad apples in the advertising bunch? Of course, but this was not China 213 BC, where following the advice of minister Li Si, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the burning of all philosophy books and history books from states other than Qin. This was followed by the live burial of a large number of intellectuals who didn’t comply with the state dogma.

Do you burn all ads because you don’t like to read a particular one or don’t relate to the pictures in another? Do you bury all advertising creatives unless they make words and pictures about something you agree with such as that particular mountain climbing gadget that someone person had been dreaming about. And what happens when you’ve tired of that gadget? Do you bury the poor saps after all?

Let’s all push for great ideas that live across all media. Ideas that engage because they create a dialogue with an audience at every touch point. Let us all work together for our marketing partners to replace the bad ideas with great ideas that are precision targeted to their audience.

Let’s do this well so we’re not all buried alive because of a few that are doing it badly. Figuratively speaking, of course.

3 thoughts on “Public Relations goes the way of the Edsel

  1. Matt – Really interesting points. But – has public relations been killed? Our daily wins with clients show otherwise. Have ad agency doors been shuttered? That practice hasn’t been taken in house by brands and brands haven’t stopped advertising. I do think professionals from both sides of the coin make themselves, and the coin, look worse when disparaging each other’s business models and practices. When I hear stories about our clients and how they “can’t stand their ad agencies” I cringe. I am not a fan of PR downtalking advertising, or advertising downtalking PR. They are both needed for different reasons. Were it not for ad-funded media vehicles, PR professionals may have far fewer journalists to pitch (sorry blogosphere). Were it not for PR, ad agencies may not represent brands that have news-centric topics getting their deserved press. Both have outdated practices. Both will evolve. But, the ones who spend too much time condescending each other will end up on the sidelines all too soon (your sports team analogy leveraged).

  2. At the end of the day, it’s like great sports teams. Each individual player has their strengths and weaknesses. Winning teams are great at fully integrating those varied talents into a coherent whole. It’s together that they achieve greatness.

  3. an interesting take, Matt. Thanks for writing it. You’re right in saying the best idea should always win out. but, the vast majority of print ads that I see in newspapers and magazines are unimaginably dull. when one thinks of the money spent in placing ads that no one will read, it boggles the mind. When practiced in the right way, PR provides a far bigger bang for the buck (thanks to a far more targeted, and believable, message).