PR in the changing marketing services landscape

James Davies

New technology continues to transform the marketing services landscape with its potential for real interaction and communication with consumers and the fragmentation/explosion of media. Not surprisingly, there has been much talk of consumers having ownership of brands, rather than the other way round. The fashion is for more direct experiential contact with users, rather than just promotion. At the same time, in line with commercial imperatives, there is an ongoing quest for measurability, to direct activity and inform return on investment.

So how fares Public Relations in the mix? On the face of it, PR seems disadvantaged on a number of levels.

Public relations has historically been more closely associated with corporate reputation than seen as a brand-building tool. It wielded influence through media channels that once enjoyed high volume levels of viewership and readership but now face falling audiences – though it is easy to exaggerate the scale and rate of this decline. Consumer generated or social media like 'blogs' (online publishing by individuals) threaten a dilution of media and a platform for agitators with an axe to grind against a particular company or category. And perhaps worst of all, PR is seen as the least measurable of the marketing disciplines.