PR: What’s the Most Important Question?

by PR Coach

Have you asked: "What's important?"

Just as newspapers are struggling with change, so too is public relations. How does this add insight to the future of PR?

Clay Shirkey said something really valuable in a recent post:

“It isn’t newspapers we should be worrying about, but news, and there are many more ways of getting and reporting the news that we haven’t tried than that we have.”

I thought his comment captured so much about changes in public relations as well. In my opinion, we should stop wringing our hands about the “changes” in PR due to social media. Instead, we should be focusing on how to incorporate new social media channels more actively for results in our profession.

For example, three years ago, you wouldn’t have worried about an online crisis. Now, with the proliferation of new social media channels and the speed at which they operate, online crisis planning and management are essential skills. You need to work at the speed of Twitter and Facebook and understand how to respond immediately to online critics or to citizen journalists.

Pre-social media, life in PR was simpler if boring. You wrote a news release and put it on the newswire. You made a few calls to media you knew and voila – results appeared. Or you wrote and distributed an employee publication. Clients and bosses were of two minds. Either PR was voodoo magic or it was dismissed as something anyone could do and get results.

Shirkey shares another journalism thought that resonates with PR too:

” What 19 year olds need to know isn’t how it was in Ye Olden Tymes of 1992; they need to know what we’ve learned about supporting the creation and dissemination of news between then and now.”

Same with PR. It’s all about working in the new communications reality using the fundamentals of public relations: researching; analyzing; writing; listening; building communities; solving problems; and adding value through communications. But doing so with whatever new tools are available now and tomorrow.

We can talk directly to consumers, customers, investors, and any other key audience without the filter of traditional media. That’s a communications game changer! And PR is right at the fulcrum of this new media world.

So the next time you worry about the failure of newspapers or the good old days of traditional public relations, remember it’s the “news” not the newspaper. And, it’s the “real” public relations not just the tools.

Just remember to always ask the most important question about your planned PR program, the new initiative you launched or even your next blog post: “What’s important?

What’s important to you? Are we asking the right questions about public relations? Your comments are welcome below.

We’ve got lots more resources in the PR Library on strategic PR, online crisis management, crisis communications, social media and more. You can also sign on to our blog or get our RSS Feed directly to your favorite reader.

Photo Credit: Torley via Flickr

Author: Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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