Seth Godin wrote a cracking little post recently about the difference between PR and publicity. He maintains the latter is just getting as much ink as possible; getting the media to make a fuss over you. PR, he says, is more about strategic message craft and the combination of interactions that determines peoples perceptions of you.
I’m glad he makes the distinction, because it’s crucial to PR being seen as a strategic management discipline. Publicity is a part of PR, often a big part, depending on who your client is. PR is a more multifaceted game; one that increasingly includes strategic insight and management counceling as well as communications output.
When I decided I was going into PR, one reaction was “So your going to send out press releases then?”, which I suppose was decidedly better than being branded a spin doctor, or as another said “like Max Clifford”.
While it’s hard to deny the ubiquitous Clifford’s talent – he’s recently provoked mass media frenzy over a total non-story in Jade Goody’s cancer case – he’s a publicist and nothing more.
Seth thinks that most firms do publicity rather than PR: now I’m sure a lot of PR folk would contest this notion, but he certainly makes a good point.
The reality is that PR firms are often under intense client pressure to get ‘collumn inches’ and some think this is the only way they can justify their paycheck.
Companies need to be educated that ink isn’t always a measure of success. You can’t work under the assumption that people will be receptive to your intended message just because its all over the nationals. We receive who knows how many communications every day and more ink doesn’t mean it’ll get through the clutter.
Good PR is about creating something compelling and engaging people with it, regardless of what medium is used. The challenge is reaching people in new and innovative ways, not just through asymmetrical mass media exposure.
In the online world, its anyones game: Marketing? PR? Advertising? It doesn’t really matter.
Increasingly communications disciplines are converging in terms of their toolset, so its the strategic message that really defines the discipline rather than the way its implemented.