The best way to improve a field that has been in existence for nearly a century is to find out what it’s doing wrong.
This was a weird concept to me at first, especially because I’m new to PR, and I’m still unclear on what it does right. But it’s a concept that was recently presented to me.
No field of work is perfect, that’s why they change. We figure out what has become wrong with them. It’s not something that is wrong from the start, but it’s wrong for the time.
In the book, “Putting the Public back in Public Relations,” Brian Solis and Dierdre Breakenridge focus the entire first chapter on what is wrong with PR.
I thought it was a very interesting and a very natural way to begin the book. Before even discussing any sort of means to improve PR, they first had to address it’s faults.
There are two different lists presented in the book from two different sources about what they think is wrong with PR.
The first list is completely client-centric. What is wrong with PR? The client doesn’t get it; clients won’t work with PR. That’s not my view of it at all.
The second list from Dave McClure is spot on. He focuses on where PR professionals have gone wrong in their work. He accuses PR of not being understanding, being seen as a spinner, being not properly trained in social media, and becoming too comfortable with “a few big traditional media instead of lots of smaller online media and online channels” (Breakenridge, Solis 2009).
This is the perfect example of how PR is only wrong today. With as many outlets as there are available today to engage your public and spark a conversation, why wouldn’t we use them? For some people, it’s simply because they’re not used to it or they don’t understand it.
Solis and Breakenridge go on to give invaluable advice in avoiding these PR pitfalls.
My favorite bit of advice is to read blogs magazines, newspapers, forums and newsletters to understand your customers. If you know what people are interested in and what they respond to, you can better reach them and “translate what you do in a way that matters” (Breakenridge, Solis 2009).
I like the idea of getting to know people before you provide a service. If you begin to spread a message before you even know what is important to your public or what they are interested in, you’re doing them a disservice. I also like the idea of sparking a conversation rather than spreading a message; we have to be engaging, not disconnected.