Debate is Being Replaced by ‘Argument Lite’, and the Public Relations Industry is Poorer as a Result
- May 15, 2018
- Roger Darashah
Counter-intuitive but true… it is humility that keeps us on top of everything.
Ajit Pai Group Head
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But PR has as much to learn from the world of marketing as vice-versa
Last week, I was invited to summarise a discussion on how PR could secure a larger slice of the marketing budget. The debate formed the central theme of a conclave hosted by Godrej and a select audience of its agency partners, in-house teams and some special guests.
One of the highlights for me was a roundtable discussion hosted by Amit Prabhu, Co-founder of PRAXIS and Founding Dean of SCoRE: is PR taken as seriously by brands as other marcom disciplines, how can we secure access to the C-suite, why isn’t it like marketing or advertising?
My view on the subject is that friction between the marketing/advertising world is nothing new; it’s inevitable particularly since we are increasingly competing for the same budget allocation. Following the afternoon’s discussions, here’s my take on the issue:
The question I am then obliged to ask myself is: where would I rather be? The glamourous, ‘visible’ side of ATL and marketing or on the ‘behind-the-scenes’, intangible side of PR?
In a market owned by Google and Facebook, where unprecedented levels of ad blockers and filters are rendering paid campaigns virtually meaningless, whose ‘celebration of creativity’ every year at Cannes is increasingly dominated by mathematicians and big data experts, I think that PR is a great place to be right now.
If ad agencies are undergoing an existential crisis since they no longer monopolise the media, PR people never owned it in the first place! We always had to beg, persuade, convince journalists to cover our clients. In a world dominated by ad blockers and content filters, ad agencies are facing the same challenge and they are way less prepared for it than we are.
On his return from the annual ad industry awards festival at Cannes in 2015, Jeff Goodby (founder and co-chairman of the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners) wrote a poignant (or pathetic) lament for The Wall Street Journal. In the past, he said, the only true measure of success was whether the public knew and cared about your (his) work. “You could get into a cab and find out, in a mile or two, whether you mattered in life, just by asking the driver.” Now, “No one knows what we do any more.”
Never mind cab drivers, hands up, those whose families actually know and understand what PR professionals actually do? The ad world is just finding out a reality which PR professionals have lived since the beginning! No one knows exactly what we do. But people certainly notice public relations in its absence.
I believe that we are entering a new age of PR; one where we should be asserting our distinct skills and insights on the marketing community. We can certainly learn from such disciplines – from their aesthetics to their use of data – but our survival will not be assured by simply mimicking ad land. We need to play to our strengths:
I can’t guarantee that the wider public will understand (even less, appreciate) what we do. However, in a world dominated by ad blockers, fake news, peer-to-peer communications, disintermediation, the ability to actually persuade people will become more important not less.
Published by Roger Darashah
Roger Darashah brings close to 23 years of international communications experience with stints in the UK, France, Spain, India and Brazil. He is part of the senior management team at Adfactors PR, working in the capacity of Chief Operating Officer.