I am excited to share this guest blog post from Paul Roberts, a 15-year PR veteran with a combo of agency and corporate experience. He has spent the last decade working primarily in high tech public relations / communications for a variety of early-stage organizations and established brand companies. His blog covers all things PR related, including how social networking is and isn’t going to change the industry.

Much has been written over the years regarding why PR is so important that it should be a C-level function. There are books, PowerPoint presentations, lectures, articles and blogs written on the topic and (almost) all of them make very strong cases why PR should be a business-driving strategic discipline.

So, if it is so clear that PR should have C-level influence – then who exactly is to blame for keeping PR down? Get out your torches and pick folks it is time to storm the castle and make the guilty parties pay…the guilty parties include:

  • That PR firm that is able to get significant coverage for an insignificant announcement
  • The PR director that secures an industry analyst or customer quote at the 11th hour
  • The PR team that delivers full feature length coverage without the time to conduct pre-briefs
  • The PR veteran who is able to book several briefings without clear messaging or with cumbersome NDA forms

In other words, look in the mirror PR folks for you are to blame!

The reason PR hasn’t overtaken marketing as the key communications functional operations center is because we are victims of our own success. PR professionals have become so adept at dealing with less than optimal conditions that the C-suite has – for lack of a better phrase – taken PR for granted.

How many times have the trusted communications professional advised the CMO, the CEO, the client or any other higher pay-grade position that in order to achieve the desired results:

  • we need more time to pre-brief reporters or
  • you can’t have 6 company quotes in the press release or
  • we need to have a referenceable customer
  • no way will the reporters agree to sign a 5-page NDA
  • we can’t issue our biggest product news on July 3rd

Yet at the end of the day in almost all the above scenarios the PR function would find a way to be successful in garnering the desired level of coverage. No good deed goes unpunished.

Yes, imagine telling your mechanic “I know I shouldn’t put water in my gas tank, and I didn’t change my oil for 5 years, but I’m going to give you 20 minutes to rebuild my engine.” Only to have the mechanic say, “Well, you should have brought me into the process earlier and 20 minutes isn’t a long time, but here is your rebuilt engine as good as new and I threw in a free tank of gas.

Okay, so we’ve established that we are to blame. So, what to do about it?

There are a couple of options: We could hold a PR strike — picture it, the industry bands together and refuses to issue any press release or launch any product until our conditions are met…um, never mind that sounds too hard and we don’t need any more out-of-work PR people.

We could push for industry-wide standards, training and certification to unite us all under a common organization that will fight for us…um, actually, I’m not much of a joiner, so forget about that idea.

Okay, on second thought, there is only one option: PR can continue to do its job, strive to meet the highest degree of professionalism and maintain high ethical standards, and expand our area of expertise to (rightfully) include social media (a battle PR is winning according to latest research) and other emerging media and communications vehicles.

If we continue down the path of hard work and professionalism, we may eventually see a shift in the job description for PR positions from the current, PR professional needed – must be team player, flexible, able to react quickly and adapt to PR professional needed to run marketing department.