You know a seismic upheaval is underway when an advertising professional says public relations is the smartest marketing investment a company can make in a recession. I'll let you read what Steve McKee of a Cleveland-based ad agency has to say, but I will add a few other points:
1) Advertising has always insisted upon an inside-out approach along the lines of: "Hey! Look at our new product or service! Isn't it wonderful?'' Public relations, on the other hand, has always engaged a reporter and his/her audience in a problem-solution dialogue: "Hey! Did you know that 88 percent of Americans just surveyed said the number one thing they need is ABC? Our client has a next generation ABC that I think you and your readers will want to know more about."
2) People don't need to pay for advertising anymore, so they don't. Web 2.0 consumers depend upon word-of-mouth and other forms of credible endorsement to make informed decisions. They TiVo their way through television programs and delete intrusive online ads. That said, they search like mad for news and information from credible sources.
3.) PR is much, much more than what Mr. McKee describes. In the post–Enron, current AIG environment in which we live, PR has become fundamental to a brand's image and reputation. Open and honest internal and external dialogue, transparent conversations and fiscal responsibility are the new watchwords of the consumer conversation.
Mr. McKee quotes the ad agency Crispin Porter Bogusky's definition of advertising as: "Making our clients heroes." In this 'new normal' in which we live, my definition of PR might be "Making our clients credible."
The king is dead. Long live the king.