Hello PR People

Tyler HurstValley PR Blog17 Comments

The role of PR in a world without gatekeepers has long confused me. Although you all claim to work with your clients to manage their public image, PR has long been the yin to old media’s yang. It’s not public relations, it’s press relations and you know it. But that’s okay. That’s a job that needs to get done.

My problem is that PR continues to operate in a silo. You talk to other PR people, you talk to reporters and you talk to clients, but seldom do I see PR people actually talking to the public they claim to serve. How familiar are PR people with content creators that exist online? How plugged in are they to the ever-evolving community of real estate agents, relevant media practitioners and web designers that are quickly setting the standard for how all business will be done?

They’re not, and not because they can’t, it’s because they choose not to be. Podcamp AZ, our largest and longest-running relevant media conference in the state, had zero people talking about PR. It may have had a few attendees, but none of you stood out in the slightest. Why? Do PR people already know enough about the changing face of American business that they need not attend conferences such as these? Professional development opportunities aside, I bet if the traditional press held a mixer every single PR person in the state would crawl over themselves to attend and hear the same old speech about declining revenues and the search for more money.

Perhaps the open sharing of information isn’t something PR is comfortable with. Perhaps this mindset, long held by the newspaper world while information could actually be hoarded, scares each of you a bit. But what will you do when the newspapers all become corporate owned, eager to push their agenda? Will they take your calls, or will they relegate you to the same trash heap they originally did with writers who publish online?

So please, be part of the entire media community, not just your niche. Come to CoHoots. Check out Gangplank. Explore whatever Mark Dudlik and Dave Bjorn have brewing at Levine Machine. See you out there.

Tyler HurstHello PR People

17 Comments on “Hello PR People”

  1. Joe Dong

    Why is this guy on the Valley PR blog? He has one of the worst attitudes about pretty much everything that I’ve ever seen….no bueno guys, no bueno

  2. Len Gutman

    Welcome to the fray Tyler. Kicking things off with a bang I see?

    To be fair to PR practitioners, there is much more to what they do than media relations. The best PR folks do indeed relate to the public through perception studies, town meetings, monitoring sentiment, etc.

    The pure media relations side is, as you suggest, dead or close to dead in my opinion and it’s one of the reasons I chose to move away from PR at this point in my career. Plenty of my fellow PR friends will scream the opposite and may well do that right here after reading your post — but they are wrong. The media as we knew it is gone and it has been replaced by a few corporate owners and thousands of niche players trying to make a go of it with no proven business model. We’ve been talking about it for years, but still there is no sign that the media will revive itself in some new form. So that leaves PR peeps barking up the wrong tree — and worse, telling their clients the tree is still valuable. Does a story in the Republic really move anyone to buy your product or attend your event? Perhaps if you have a pure consumer product/service, but not beyond that.

    Most PR folks I know have moved on from working toward the big Republic hit onto “managing” a social media program. Is this PR now? Twitter and Facebook fan pages? It would seem so — but oftentimes that too feels like a waste of time if your goal is to move people to act.

    So what is the answer? Maybe you’re right Tyler in that PR folks need to learn to work with the bloggers, microsite owners and other content creators — and/or make their clients content creators which is what I’ve tried to do. It ain’t easy. But if news as we knew it is dead, PR as we knew it is also dead. What’s next?

  3. Marketing Sociologist

    Mr. Hurst and Mr. Gutman:

    The problem with many in the public relations realm is they don’t see the big picture. My entire career, I’ve had a problem because I see the forest and had to deal with people who only saw a tree or two.

    If I said art, you could think of a ballet, a Monet, a piano recital, Ansel Adams photographs (at the U of A) or decoupage. Art encompasses a number of different fields.

    In the mid-80s, having moved into corporate public relations at an AT&T branch after getting my required 10 years reporting experience, I got an MBA. There were no advanced public relations degrees available in an executive education format, so I got mine in marketing.

    Let’s compare marketing with art. In marketing, there is price, product, place and promotion. Promotion encompasses advertising, public relations, public service announcements, newsletters, annual reports and sales support. So marketing is the business world’s art category.

    If a city has a meeting, like a budget hearing, or a meeting to explain new zoning laws, or a new commission to look into police operations, that is public relations. The non-profit that holds an annual board meeting for volunteers is utilizing public relations, and the public is very real – they’re the ones who fund your operations. Same with a church.

    Let’s look at advertising agencies, and gasp, I will say it, their subset – public relations firms. Most advertising/public relations agencies do not have MBAs on staff. So the belief is that to justify charging clients $150 per hour for work actually done by interns, you need to present press clippings. I was the one who created what is now called ROI – a misnomer of a case study in Dr. Otis Baskin’s public relations textbook.

    Marketing has expanded to include 21st Century marketing tools like Twitter, Facebook. In 2007, I pitched clients about using YouTube and MySpace. Most often I was shown the door with the words, “We need press releases.” Now I pitch SmartPhone apps and QR codes and am shown the door hearing, “We need facebook.” It’s the same people looking for the trees in the forest.

    As Len pointed out, I pity the fool who has held to the belief public relations means media relations. Why? That wasn’t even true in Edward Bernays’ time. If I need to explain who Edward Bernays is, you might want to consider why you’re in public relations.

    Happy holidays.

  4. Jared Bodnar

    I think you’re correct in that many ‘traditional’ PR professionals operate in silos and do more media relations than ‘public’ relations, but that’s been changing for a while now, and most are embracing these changes and having more direct interactions with the public. I’ve always viewed public relations as encompassing much more than just media relations. It includes event planning, newsletter development, online content creation, etc.–all of which are communications tactics that reach the public directly, not through gatekeepers.

    With the traditional media contracting and new media expanding, I’ve seen companies focus more and more on ‘content marketing’ (especially in the B2B space where I play). To me, content marketing means creating compelling, relevant, educational content for a specific target audience, which I consider to be a component of public relations. The distribution of that content (through news releases, blogs, e-mail, Twitter, FB, etc.) is what has been changing, but the fundamental principles (creating good content your customers and prospects want to read) will always be valuable.

  5. tdhurst

    Joe Dong – name something.

    PR Professional, er, Zion and Zion –
    Congrats! You’re halfway to being a certified anonymous whiner. Perhaps if you frequented any of the events or places I mentioned, you could learn how to be anonymous.

    Matthew Dutile –
    It’s not trolling if I’m correct. Also, your website is built using flash only, meaning a large set of potential customers can’t access it, nor does it adhere to accepted web design principles. Your argument is invalid.

  6. Suzanne Qualem

    Just curious.. What qualifies this person to have such an opinion on a professional blog? Just because you have a Twitter account and an opinion doesn’t mean you are an expert. I found the column to be quite.inappropriate for this blog.

  7. Malcolm Atherton


    PR has taken an unfair thrashing over the last few years as the model has changed. Once a direct-to-press, PR/media relations/corporate communications can now be a direct-to-press, direct-to-consumer, or both. For the last 7 years I’ve worked with PR pros – both inhouse and agency – from around the world and know that there has been a whole lot of disruption going on. But that doesn’t mean that they collectively have been passed over. Media is media whether it’s new or old (radio to TV; fax to e-mail; e-mail to Twitter; etc. – people adapted their needs based on the available technology) and every type has the potential to help a PR pro do their job.
    Tyler, you’ve managed to lump all PR people unfairly into the same category. And you did so without doing your homework. For example (from your post):
    – “My problem is that PR continues to operate in a silo. You talk to other PR people, you talk to reporters and you talk to clients, but seldom do I see PR people actually talking to the public they claim to serve.” Check out the Groundswell awards, talk to some PR people, hang out in #journchat, etc. and you’ll see that the PR community is actively involved in social media outreach, community events, and learning about/touching their audience(s), etc.
    – “How familiar are PR people with content creators that exist online? How plugged in are they to the ever-evolving community of real estate agents, relevant media practitioners and web designers that are quickly setting the standard for how all business will be done?” Why don’t you go out and ask them? I can speak on behalf of a majority of practitioners that I’ve dealt with who rabidly absorb content, tips, and business trends from sites and RSS feeds dealing with what’s working for agencies, corporations, small businesses, etc. It’s wrong to blindly say that real estate agents, “relevant” media practitioners (what is that?), and Web designers are all better equipped than any other professional group.
    You go on to say that because PR people aren’t involved in the events and pools that you swim in that they must be unaware of evolving business practices. It is possible, Tyler, that there are better and more relevant/appropriate events to attend where an ROI can be attained that is specific to the industry and needs of the practitioner. For example, some companies deal with very specific niches where (your ridiculous title of) “relevant” media is not relevant to them or to their audiences.
    You complete your post this statement – “So please, be part of the entire media community, not just your niche. Come to CoHoots. Check out Gangplank. Explore whatever Mark Dudlik and Dave Bjorn have brewing at Levine Machine.”
    You’re right – it’s always good to branch out when an event is relevant or could be relevant to what a PR practitioner needs to do their job. In return, why don’t you be a part of the “entire media community” and start showing up at some AMA, PRSA, and IABC events? You might learn something yourself and I think you’ll quickly see that these are folks who work to adapt to the changing needs of their job and industry(s).
    And I think you’ll see that they aren’t living in the dark ages.

  8. Brent


    You don’t know what you don’t know.

    Public relations is much more than media relations.

    Neither here nor there, press releases for public companies are not only effective but essential.

    There are stock market intricacies (for public corporations) where millions (if not billions) of dollars are exchanged on the news that companies produce, which is disseminated by press releases. Why press releases? For many reasons, including that the consumer public is only one audience.

    There is a reason why the most “hip” and “revolutionary” companies like Apple still issue press releases, and it is above and beyond only media coverage.

    Like many have stated public relations is much more than media relations.

  9. Jason

    I think that this “hello” piece serves its purpose well. You are making people speak up and give valid points on what they know or think they know about PR. Some visitors leave comments like, “Oh, not this dude…” or whatever, but the thing is, you make people get pissed off or think about a positive reality. I may not agree with you on many topics, but that’s good. I’ll learn from everyone’s comments and it’s good to hear what you have to say. I’ll learn about you, too.

    What’s my reality? Well, I work for one of the fastest growing privately-held companies in AZ and our PR is shite. Finally there is hope and all the traditional PR will be used. There will also be new forms of that PR (like the examples you give) and I’m excited to see what happens. I have high expectations.

    Look, I’m not a PR person, but I have been involved with it, on a tight and close level, for the last decade. I don’t write that well, but I do take note of what people say and do, where to go to hear people speak and whatever else, just so I can build my knowledge.

    Keep people talking, Mr. Hurst.

  10. Tyler Hurst

    Jim – I took a writing class? I probably should.

    Malcolm – yes, I was making a generalization. From my perspective, this is true.
    I don’t go to your events because I don’t like them, but I know because I’ve been before. Can you say the same thing?

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