In a few hours from now, I’ll be heading to AdWeek DC to moderate a panel on content marketing.

Then on Friday, I head to Boston to speak at PRSA’s Association/Nonprofit Section Half-Day Conference on email marketing.

Notice a common thread here? Nowhere in the panel descriptions do you see “PR.”

Which is why a recent PRWeek article quoting WE’s “president of international” (yes, this is actually his title) saw my jaw hit the floor in record time.

Here’s a screen grab:VanderMolen

VanderMolen 2

Wow.

So the “president of international” of one of the biggest agencies in the world (WE is how Waggener Edstrom rebranded itself a couple of years ago) is essentially telling PR to step back into its media relations box and ignore pretty much EVERYTHING we KNOW about smart comms in the digital age.

“Stick to the sensibilities of earned media.”

Want to hazard a guess at how “earned media” is making its living these days, Alan? Branded content (I know this because I frequently write said branded content for a major B2B media brand).

“Stick to the sensibilities of third party validation over YouTube influencers.”

JC, Alan. Did you happen to notice how Google sent a bunch of YouTubers to Rio last year to cover the Olympics?

Because quite a few of them have over TWO MILLION “third party” subscribers (I mean, what else would you call them? Not EVERY one of them can be their mom!) to their channels.

Putting that in perspective, that’s more than the New York Times. So, Alan, tell me about that third party validation again.

“In-house departments and agencies are running towards the budgets, therefore marketers are getting a larger say.”

In case it escaped your notice, Alan, pretty much EVERYONE except the U.S. government needs to work within a budget. “Marketers” are focused on generating, and reporting on, return for their dollars … so yea, they tend to rule budget convos. And trust me, I ache for the day all PR pros will do this as well.

Now, there is a LOT to be said for earned media.

I “grew up” in PR as a publicist, so will NEVER bash earned media… because I’ve seen (and still do see) how powerful it is.

But to imply, nay, state, that it’s the be all and end all for PR in this day and age, where literally anyone and everyone could be a significant influencer if only you are able to identify and tap into their niche – which REQUIRES you to go beyond media relations – that’s just irresponsible.

And coming from the “president of international” of one of the biggest agencies in the world… it’s not only irresponsible, it stinks of territorialism.

Please don’t fall into this trap.

Because it’s PR pros who can accept and adapt to this Wild West of a digital landscape who will succeed in doing what PR does best: building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships for their organizations and publics (like I teach my 1:1 coaching clients).

As far as I’m concerned, we should use any means at our disposal, regardless of which “bucket” they fall into, as long as we’re doing it ethically and responsibly.

Because when we’re able to show how our work supports business results… we’re golden.

And who wouldn’t want that?

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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