Tools Change. Not the Job…
“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
Henry David Thoreau
The debate about what PR is and should do in the brave new world of social networks makes no sense. I do not buy into the concept that there is a PR 2.0. The tools have changed. The job has not.
Too much of what I read is about how everything has changed. Really? Isn’t an organization’s progress toward its goals still one of the few reasons any resources should be committed to anything? It should be.
The reason for communicating has been, is and always will be to inform, influence and convince. New channels like social media may change how we can get the job done but they don’t change the reason or the goal. Most importantly, new ways to reach people do not change how people are convinced. We still need to tell them a clear, concise and credible story when and where they can and will listen.
Seeing people trying to make social media a new silo in the communication world is wrong. PR agencies already have too many specialties, practices and experts. Having sat in the management meetings where many of these shiny new things were created, I can tell you they were conceived as ways to raise revenues and, hopefully, margins. Last time I checked that hadn’t worked out so well and PR was still at or close to the top of disposable expenses when times get tight for an organization.
Seriously, it is time to get real and do the job without getting caught up in the tools. Shiny objects do not change the basic definition of what PR should be doing for organizations.
Way back in PR 101 in 1972, the primary textbook was “Effective Public Relations” by Cutlip and Center, the fourth edition. Their definition of PR still seems right to me today. I checked and they are on the 10th edition now. While the definition is probably less sexist, and hopefully updated to reflect change, I’m going to pass on buying an updated version.
Their definition of the PR Counselor’s job was:
- To facilitate and insure an inflow of representative opinions from an organization’s several publics so that its policies and operations may be kept compatible with the diverse needs and views of these publics.
- To counsel management on ways and means of shaping an organization’s policies and operations to gain maximum public acceptance.
- To devise and implement programs that will gain wide and favorable interpretations of an organization’s policies and operations.
OK, me being me, I’d be more direct:
- Listen to the people who will make a difference in your organization’s future and share what you learn with the people who need to know. And I don’t mean just the supporters!
- Give management your best advice on how and what to do to get the support needed to succeed.
- Share your story with the people who count in a clear, concise and credible way.
The better organizations execute those three points in their communications, the more success they have. Not listening to the people who count, ignoring public opinion in setting policies and strategies, and not telling the world about it properly are all recipes for failure.
That hasn’t changed in the last 35 years – or ever!
Instead of trying to pretend the world has changed, it’s time for people to start figuring out how to use the new tools to get the job done better.