“We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.” Edward Bernays, the father of Public Relations
Public Relations firms, today more than ever before are in the content creation business – and this democratization of the media – of information and communication can be used for good and for bad. Nick Cohen, an influential British journalist wrote a fascinating article this weekend about dictators utilizing PR Agencies to tell their stories. Cohen – albeit while showing the negative uses of the Public Relations industry – indicates why Public Relations will continue to grow.
“In propaganda, as in so much else, money matters. “
“In the age of the internet, the spin appears futile, ridiculous even.”
“Sitting in newspaper offices, where I can almost see the money hemorrhaging out the doors, the future they envisage does not look so cheery. As the net destroys media business plans, foreign reporting… becomes ever harder to fund.”
“Instead of living in a new age of transparency, governments and corporations are enjoying a media world defined by a growing inequality of arms. The Public Relations Consultants Association told me that its best guess was that Britain had about 60,000 press officers. The Newspaper Society estimates that there are about 40,000 journalists "but that figure includes people no one would think of as reporters". The number who can hold power to account is far smaller. The Newspaper Society says 10,000 work on local and regional papers. In a study of Fleet Street published last year, Women in Journalism put the number of editors and reporters on the national press at 3,800.”
"Broadcasters cannot come to the rescue. Its managers have responded by hacking back quality journalism rather than the pap. You can pick holes in these figures – what about freelancers writing for newspaper websites? – but the uncomfortable fact remains that growing numbers of PRs are giving material to a diminishing band of reporters desperate to fill empty space with whatever puffery lands in their inboxes"
The bottom line is that money matters, and old media is increasingly having a hard time recognizing and catching up to Public Relations campaigns. In Europe, unfortunately it seems dictators are taking advantage of this schism. Major components of any PR campaign today (for dictators or not) involves content creation – as proper PR campaigns are information outlets and can be as influential as any national news anchor or investigative reporter —whether their information is accurate or not.
In recent weeks within the halls of power of the Public Relations industry, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion about the power of creation of content. In fact, one of the industry’s leading Trade magazines, PR Week wrote an editorial called “Content and the convening power of PR”, where the Publisher rightfully argues “This is the perfect environment for PR, the organization’s natural conveners, to influence outcomes. Even as other organizational areas might take the lead on certain areas of content strategy, PR has the perfect opportunity to be the convener, to bring disparate functions together to maximize the value and assess the risk, of new content campaigns. With their journalistic DNA, communicators get not just the what and the who, but the why and the how.”
Other industry leaders make similar statements:
“PR is about creating content and managing communications – in whatever format it is.” Lord Chadlington (Peter Gummer), Huntsworth
“So much of our business has become content creation,” Harris Diamond, Interpublic Group (a leading communications holding company)
This owner of a PR Agency will say that of course money matters in PR – and for all of us in the Public Relations business we are enjoying a well-deserved growth stage.
Companies and people are beginning to recognize that the old way of building consumer or public equity is changing. IBIS World, a media research firm, says PR spending in 2010 was $9.73 billion and forecasts it will increase to $12.82 billion by 2015.
The growth is in part due to PR’s ability to participate in a more nimble and flexible way with the new methods by which people consume media, including social media. Content is king.
Ronn Torossian founded 5WPR, a Top 25 PR Agency and is author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations.”