Sunday, June 06, 2004

Same Thing All Over Again 

I was in upstate New York over the last three days and while there, I met a PR practitioner who was pushed out of a corporate communications role. This practitioner related an all-too-familiar story. The company had decided it needed skilled PR management, so it hired another person into the job. The person who came in was from a marketing background. Immediately, the new person stopped talking to the press. And, apparently, this person has not talked since either.

When I explained why I thought this happened -- lack of control over the media -- the ex-corporate communications leader said this sounded like the case. I have nattered here about the change in PR from working with media to preference for controlled communications akin to promotion. I have to say I am late in making this charge. Jack O'Dwyer in his newsletter has been complaining about it for years. I ignored him for a long time until it happened all around me.

The sad fact of marketing is it assumes that what it cannot control, it can ignore. This has never been the case, and it never will be. What one ignores can sink a company, especially if the media suddenly become vehicles for sensational charges, as I have been witnessing lately.

An organization might be able to work for a long time without dealing with the media, but there will come a day when it must relate, and it won't know how. If a company feels it can't afford to keep people on staff to do media relations -- other than trade media --, it should find an agency to handle larger media.

Wait! That's silly advice. One agency after another has de-emphasized media relations in favor of high-volume, marketing-related work using controlled communications.

So where does a company go that needs to deal with Forbes, Fortune, Barron's, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other national business media? Where does a company go to get objective advice about its story -- what works and what doesn't? There are fewer places to turn. And, that's not healthy for PR.


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