PR unspun – social media sews creative destruction?

Participatory media causes problems for PR and for how brands manage deal with perceptions and discussions of their goods and services.

But it also offers new and significant opportunities for smart brands and operators in the PR space.

How much have they changed though?

At an NMK January event Beers & Innovation 7: Do Agencies Innovate? that I largely put together before I left NMK, Desiree Collier of Burson-Marsteller made the interesting observation that PR agencies are in a much stronger position to develop both innovative and holistic communications solutions for their clients than marketing agencies, because they have more far reaching and integral contact with clients, and the work is more strategic and less campaign-based and short term in nature.

[For readers pining for B&I goodness, Monsieur Ian Delaney has a cracking write up of B&I 7 here]

As Ian recapped of Collier’s points

For all kinds of companies, in all kinds of contexts, conversations are becoming key. So, in many respects, PR matters are at the forefront of companies’ marketing concerns

But having just finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto (mea culpa, I was just a entertainment and consumer-type web editor back in Bubble 1, and missed the whole Cluetrain fandango), I get the feeling something more fundamental is being avoided.

In the final chapter – ‘Post Apocalypto’ – the author quotes Polish journalist Ruszard Kapuscinski from 1991:

The situation is a demonic paradox: we have toppled the system but we still carry its genes.”

So…. I’m expecting a constant thread in the discussion at the next Chinwag Live event on 24th April – PR Unspun – will be that of how brands and companies can *control* and *manage* perceptions and *control* the conversation.

Maybe I’ll be proved wrong (nothing new there then), but seven years on from the publication of Cluetrain the book, am I really far off the mark in saying PR and marketing are still largely paralysed? Can they really change their spots? Back to Cluetrain again:

“…so while business stereotypes are largely empty, or come from another day and have long since lost any real descriptive power, we find ourselves replicating the behaviors they caricature.

Why? Well, because we’re business people, of course! And that’s how business people behave. Welcome to the hall of mirrors. Welcome, as Vonnegut put it, to the monkey house.

We don’t believe what we’re saying at work. We know no one else believes it either. But we keep saying it because because because because the needle’s stuck. The record’s broken. Because we just can’t stop. Because who would we be if we didn’t talk like that?”

Seven years on this is still pretty powerful stuff.

Is social media sewing creative destruction? Are the incumbents poised to make gains, or will new players challenge their rule? And how much truth in the notion that PR will inevitably be distintermediated – at least in some sectors – by the social and behavioural changes wrought by participatory media?

I hope some of you will come along and put some challenging and interesting questions and points to the panel at Chinwag Live: PR Unspun.

The panel features speakers from the big corporates Edelman and Burson-Marsteller, through to brand and reputation monitoring service Market Sentinel and Second Life trailblazers Crayon LLC.

More info here: (NB: 50% discounted booking rate ends Thursday 19th April)

[UPDATE Thursday 19th April: This event is sold out now]


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