PR commands more respect than ever, says Mark Borkowski

In the feeding frenzy of publicity there was once an established food chain. Media buyers and advertisers got the creative cuts and the PROs picked up the freebie scraps. As we find more ways of buying influence through the ever-expanding online cash cow, some are peddling the death of PR as a plat du jour.
Like many demises, PR’s has been grossly exaggerated. Rather, PR has a bigger voice than it's ever had before and a lot more respect in the industry. Where advertisers control their creatives, we work with that most intangible and delicate of things – relationships. This counts for something. It means PR has to be focused more than other disciplines on understanding the crowd: what helps overworked journalist to do their job, what it is that engages customers, what cuts through the billion-loud babble.
Paid-fors are effective at reaching customers – they counteract banner blindness and readers spend as much time on them as editorials – but if they aren’t integrated into a campaign and part of a set of focused messages across a range of channels then it’s difficult to account for their lasting influence. There’s much talk of converged media, where PR plays the part of integrating paid, owned and earned in some neatly expressed annual report-style venn diagram. But ultimately it comes down to producing compelling content and leveraging relationships.      
Which brings us to trust. For many, PR is the antithesis: all spin and bluster. But as the current PR obituarist Robert Phillips reminds us, trust is an outcome not a paid-for input. By operating though relationships – with clients, journalists, online influencers – PR has to aspire to trustworthiness if it is to add value. Bombarding customers with promoted tweets and adverts dressed as journalism is one way to get heard, but it has yet to rival the power of word of mouth and recommendations from respected trendsetters. Rather than squabbling for the leftovers, PROs should make a case to their clients for streamlining their activity with the work of media buying agencies.

Written by Mark Borkowski, CEO of PR consultancy