Is PR Dead?


In a post I did a while back on Beyond the Hype, I referenced a survey published by the American Press Institute that concludes, “despite the emergence of social media as a news source, 47% of Americans trust the information they read in newspapers more than other sources.”

Meanwhile, in early 2015, a former UK Edelman executive published, “Trust me, PR is dead,” a 300-page book that attacks the idea information can be “managed” and institutions can “implant messages” in target audiences. This book was reviewed and discussed at its time of launch, and O’Dwyer’s PR News did a good job of summarizing it.

Both the US-based study and UK-based book reference the changing nature of what constitutes news and how individuals are influenced by what they read in various channels.

We understand and agree that traditional PR and the media landscape have changed dramatically recently. But, we completely disagree with the notion these changes represent the death knell of PR. PR is not standing still. Good PR is evolving. Good PR is about recognizing the need to work differently with the various channels of information companies must navigate to bring their messages to their ultimate customers. News is also evolving. “News” today is not just about the latest product or service from a company. It’s a story that reflects a company’s thought leadership and understanding of the key issues facing their customers today. This type of storytelling that packages “news” – in the form of new opinions and insights – requires the expertise of public relations professionals for several reasons:

  • PR professionals – particularly working for a company from the agency side – maintain enough knowledge of the company to be effective, along with a critical level of objectivity that helps ferret out the “story,” using the best channels, that will resonate with customers
  • In a society in which customers want information and reviews from other customers to help influence their buying decisions, working with skilled PR professionals who create the content and visibility that fulfills these customer proof points is critical
  • The most effective and successful business professionals are expert in management, their own industry and technology, and the needs of their customers. They typically are not experts at communications. Therefore, they need at their right hand PR professionals who bring the strategy, counsel and coaching to help them communicate their expertise most effectively

So from our perspective, no, PR is not dead. PR needs to continue to evolve just as the industry and media landscape evolve. The best PR practitioners continue to embrace this change. They understand how to leverage effective storytelling in all channels – the surviving traditional media and the paid, earned, shared and owned social channels. And, they understand the tremendous impact this new approach to PR is having on their clients.

Tell us why you think PR is or isn’t dead in the comments.