Let’s face it! If we asked 10 people randomly on the street, what Public Relations means, 4 of them would have no idea, 3 would think it’s marketing, 2 would say press relations and maybe one would know the answer.
Of course, the general public doesn’t have to be aware of my beloved profession, but I would take an educated guess that the numbers would be somewhat similar if we asked the business community. And this is where our problem begins.
Back in the 1990s, PR lived its Golden Age in Central Eastern Europe. As Western companies flooded the new markets, they brought the multicultural mindset with them, which included the understanding and use of Marketing and Public Relations. This era continued well into the 2000s, all the way until the financial crisis starting in 2008. The first area to suffer major budget cuts was advertising. PR boomed – this is when companies started to regard it as cheap marketing – but not for long. Soon Public Relations lost its strategic role and became no more than a mere Excel line until a crisis erupted.
Crisis is over
The financial crisis is over and you would think that our profession is back on its feet. Well…not exactly. Attention and budget shifted to online channels and two magic words prompted business people to open wallets as if the Philosopher’s Stone was available on sale. These were Social media and Content Marketing.
Now, everyone is all for social and content. Not many know that these two fields originate in PR – they are ACTUALLY PUBLIC RELATIONS – in a sexier format. The problem is when someone regards these fields more than channels. Because that is what they are: very effective, modern and exciting communication tools.
Message is important
We – PR people – use them, we love to use them. But we know, and this is what the business community should understand, that Public Relations starts at the basis, with a strategic attitude, experience and business mind. What is the most important is the MESSAGE. If you don’t answer the three basic questions right – who am I, what do I want to say and to whom – then any channel will be used in vain.
Smart companies use Public Relations in a strategic role because they understand the it’s the PR-professionals who will build up and maintain the company’s most important intangible assets: its reputation and its brand. If those are not handled by professionals, no sexy channel will save a company from going down.