Swimming the channels

One thing that always amazes me about PR – whether it’s about awards, case studies or whatever, is how obsessed the industry is with the use of channels – for the uninitiated, that is the means of getting messages across.

So it was a delight to read, in a PR Week supplement on integrated communications (basically integration is making sure you say the same thing across all channels) words from Gordon Tempest-Hay of Blue Rubicon who said: “In reality, the entire marcomms (short for marketing communications) industry, notably PR, is channel-driven, not audience or client-led.”

Three cheers for you from Gecko1000, Mr Tempest-Hay. Exactly. PR is, or should be, about the people you are communicating to. The channels are the means of getting the message to them.

This reminded me of an online discussion I took part in a few months ago when a PR agency was agonising over whether to tag itself as a social media shop, as that is where the client pound is increasingly being spent.

I pointed out that communications is about the audience, not the means of delivery. Yes, by all means present yourself to the market in a way that will make you money, but don’t lose sight of the fact that channels are a means to an end (communicating with someone) and not an end in itself – otherwise PR becomes a technical exercise and loses all its artistry.

Reputation and PR

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) says PR is the ‘discipline which looks after reputation’. (www.cipr.co.uk)

Shouldn’t PR be focusing on the tree rather than the shadow? The reason the industry has latched on to Reputation and clutched it to its bosom is to increase its own credibility with business and move itself higher up the corporate food chain.

The absurdity of positioning PR as the reputation discipline was illustrated by the industry organ, PR Week, a few years back when the credit crunch hit, banks were bailed out by governments, and their reputation with the public went into meltdown. PR Week ran an article featuring the PR savants at the major banks under the headline The Reputation Managers. Nice of them to name and shame the guilty, I thought. Of course, the PR men and women at banks and elsewhere are no more or less involved in reputation-making than any other employee.