Has PR become a dirty word?

I blame digital. Hear me out here, but over the years and since the arrival of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and then Snapchat (and all the others in between), there has been more and more confusion about the role that PR plays, especially when compared to its marketing sibling. 

Surely PR is just sending a press release out to a journalist and then hoping that it turns into something more? 

Well let me tell you now that it isn’t. PR is about so much more than that and, since the explosion of the digital age, us PRs have had to dig deeper than ever before, with a solid PR strategy now being about so much more than how to get a product/person/brand into the biggest selling national newspaper. 

Now, we have to consider how to engage the traditional journalist, we have to think about the different timings of print publications, we have to think about the different media angles for different sector titles, we have to work out how and when to communicate our ‘story’ on social media, how to reach bloggers, how to respond to online complements/critiques/criticisms that may follow, which channels are most effective for our outreach and how and when the story will be communicated internally and to whom. This is just for starters. 

And we’re doing all this at a time when it’s so much harder to reach our audience - they (we!) have so many more choices of what we consume and when we consume it, much less time to actually consume in the first place and, even when we capture their attention, it’s damned hard to keep it with all the other distractions around (did you know that the average consumer today really does pay less attention than a goldfish, so you have approximately eight seconds to capture their imagination?). 

So when there is clearly a skill and a knowledge to managing a successful PR campaign, why are so many shying away from using the work ‘PR’, instead opting to use ‘Communications’ to convey what we're intending to be the same meaning? 

In my humble opinion, I think that communications as a word is simply more all-encompassing and therefore, communicates more easily that digital is included. PR - sadly - has become too outdated in its connotation and in the way that it is interpreted by others (the ones I mentioned who still believe that PR simply means sending a press release into the ether) and, in this digital age, the majority have simply taken the easiest option, with agencies dropping the ‘PR’ part and job titles being re-branded from PR to Communications Manager - even my own consultancy uses ‘Brand Communications’ in its name.

And whether we choose to use the word PR or Communications, the industry as a whole needs to continue to educate and inform about the work that we do and the role that we play, so that our presumed remit is not shrunk any further as the digital era and our love affair with content continues to grow.

And what about the difference between PR and Marketing? Well that, my friends, I shall have to save for another day.