One of the most asked questions in the entire field of public relations is what the field is. What is PR? What is public relations, especially in the hyper-connected digital world we live and work in now? Here’s the short answer:
Public relations (or earned media, as we’ve come to call it) is the business of getting other people to talk about you.
That’s it in a nutshell. In the old days, we’d make fine distinctions among word of mouth marketing, public relations (managing the public through things like press conferences), media relations, etc. but those distinctions have been obliterated by the democratization of media. Talking to your fans on Facebook today is just as important as a formal press conference. Responding to customers on Twitter is just as important as responding via email. Traditional PR hasn’t gone anywhere, either. You still need to answer the phone when a customer calls. You still need to pitch the venerable Grey Lady, the New York Times, when it’s appropriate to do so. You still want to try to make it onto daytime television, because traditional media is still the cultural water cooler of society, the common ground that we share.
In the old days, the main challenge of public relations was getting in front of the audience. With three television channels and a few major national newspapers, getting any press was a difficult task. Today, the main challenge of public relations is getting in front of the right audience, the audience that fits your niche. A blog out there might have just the right people to talk to. An influencer on Twitter might have just the handful of people who can tell the world about you. A connection on LinkedIn might never buy your product or service but can connect you to the biggest buyer you’ve ever had. That’s the new public relations. Are you ready?
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology