Every time I read an article about public relations, my heart sinks. For an industry that is supposed to be about communication and building relationships, our industry is pretty bad at both. Moreover, a recent article on MarketingProfs claimed the information age killed public relations.
Everybody is looking for something to blame for the steady demise of the industry, but they should really be looking in the mirror.
We're not that great at telling our own story, and—let's face it—PR's reputation has been in the toilet for years.
I've been working in the industry since 1997, and it was bad even then. Customers were often unsure of exactly what they were going to get in return for the payment of the monthly retainer. Even now, excessive retainer fees, a lack of transparency, no clear value proposition, and dubious business ethics (such as most PR professionals selling publicity as PR and asking, "What's your budget?" before asking their customers anything else) coupled with no clear ROI means that the reputation of our industry is currently at an all-time low.
Is it any wonder we find it hard to be taken seriously?
The PR Industry Is Broken
The industry is broken; it is not fit for the purpose it purports to have been designed for. The model is broken; the ubiquitous retainer and cookie-cutter PR process do not help the majority of agency customers. The definition has been bastardized to the point that most newcomers to the industry never fully understand the fundamentals of PR.
The result of all that is that nobody—not even people working in the industry—is clear about what PR is. We cannot agree on a single definition. There is no consensus on what value PR delivers or why businesses need it.