Public relations professional today: Publisher and publicist
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When the public relations (PR) profession first emerged there were two tools available: the press release and third party advocacy. These tactics were used to both promote clients and the professionals themselves (separately, of course). With the emergence of social media we’ve seen the emergence of a new type of professional–an overlap of the combined publisher and the publicist.
Did social media lead to the PR professional as publisher? No. Even before blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other online communications professionals published content. Edward Bernays, the “father of public relations,” wrote his first book–Crystallizing Public Opinion–immediately after opening his PR business.
While it’s not new to promote oneself through published content, the extreme overlap of publisher and publicist is.
It’s a delicate balance for the savvy professional who both promotes clients and produces content.
The majority of publisher/publicist “overlappers” produces regular (one to two times a week), online content about their industry. In addition to doing the work, they’re writing about the work they’re doing. They’re not writing about how great they are as PR professionals, but offering tips, tools, thought leadership and other resources for those interested in the profession. And it’s working for them. How? They’re generating business, building expertise, growing their careers and networking.
Does a successful online publisher equal a great publicist for a client? Not necessarily (or vice versa). A topic for another post–the analyst versus the theorist versus the tactitioner (those who analyze the industry, those who talk about concepts and those in the trenches).
Some of the best public relations professionals in the industry are no where to be found online. Why? My guess is because they’ve achieved what they want in their career. They don’t necessarily need to enhance their credibility. The work they do already supports their case. We’re not all that lucky. Perhaps it’s lack of experience. I often advise communications students to produce online content to assist them in their career search. For example, you need experience to get a job, yet can’t always get the experience. New professionals can use online content to combat this Catch-22. Maybe we need to build business. There are solo PR professionals who don’t have large budgets for marketing and advertising and use their online content as a major source of publicity and referrals for their business. We want to be the best. If someone wants their name to be synonymous with a specific kind of public relations, in addition to doing great work, can use online content to expedite the process.
During a social media boot camp for communications professionals this week someone asked me, “What does the future communications professional look like?” My answer was that I didn’t know. I only know what I see happening now. And right now this is where we’re at. Do you think communications professionals in the future will require both?
(Thank you to Joe Chernov for inspiring this post.)