Why does the public relations industry still struggle to distinguish and define itself?

When I started writing this blog post, I was entirely convinced that PR needs to distinguish itself from all of the other disciplines that it is so often grouped with (marketing, advertising, media, copywriting…), but along the way I seem to have managed to turn myself around and I now realise that my initial view was a little misguided.

Maybe I’m being too honest and should have hidden the opinion that I held at the start, but I thought it was an unusual occurence and one that was worth recognising since I’m also interested in the online world and how its tools (blogs included) can help us to get a message to market.

It began when I re-tweeted a quote on Twitter that plagued my mind for the rest of the day. The quote came from an Australian article about higher level education in public relations, specifically relating to its identification and status:

“PR faces image problems in selling itself as an independent discipline”

I thought that the quote completely summed up my experience of speaking to some people who work outside of the industry. Rather than seeing it as a speciality in its own right, individuals seem keen to categorise it under a broader heading – which I thought aggrieved me.

When PR professionals try to explain their chosen career to friends and family, common responses include: “So it’s just marketing…” or “Isn’t that advertising that you don’t have to pay for?” While neither of them are that far from the mark, they are both comparative definitions rather than descriptions of the field itself.

Public relations: trying to swim against the marketing tide

For a balanced argument, I began to write about how I think PR works incredibly well in consultation with other disciplines. Specifically I thought about how it can effectively and measurably drive traffic to marketing micro-sites, raise awareness of promotions and play on the popularity of paid advertisements.

This is the point at which I began to realise that my desire for PR to stand on its own was overshadowed by the importance of its collaborative capacity.

As is so often the case, it seems that the PR practioner’s best promotional work is rarely saved to ensure its own success, but on reflection perhaps this is a positive thing and public relations should happily serve at the pleasure of the inimitable marketing director.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine


One thought on “Why does the public relations industry still struggle to distinguish and define itself?

  1. Interesting post Becca, in that you’ve done a u-turn on your initial thinking! I’ve always viewed PR as a form of marketing, which sits alongside other areas such as advertising, telesales, direct mail or email marketing. The best marketing campaigns integrate more than one of those disciplines.

    But as the digital world opens up new channels of communication, so the boundaries start to blur. Advertisers, designers, SEO companies, PR agencies (and even the customer service function) are all seeking “their” portion of the online pie. I actually think there might be room for all of those disciplines, but it takes a savvy marketing director to bring them all together to work towards the same goals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s