In many recent conversations, I often find myself delineating between traditional PR and non-traditional PR/social media. This is particularly true in conversations with pharmaceutical marketing departments looking to engage in social media. This is due in part to make a clear distinction between media relations and social media. But I’ve started to wonder, what is traditional PR anyway? What do I mean when I say that and what am I implying? Does the term hold any value?
What I am essentially implying when I say that is that they are somehow different—that social media and PR do not go hand and hand. This couldn’t be further from the case.
I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that we stop using the term all together. There are far too many audiences out there that do not fully understand the strategies and tactics involved in a more refined communications program. But when you get down to it, the idea that there is a “traditional PR” is somewhat limiting.
When people talk about traditional PR, they are talking about media relations, writing press releases, etc…But writing a press release is not public relations. Writing a press release is one of the tactics involved in PR. The real bread and butter of a public relations program is—you guessed it, communicating with the public. How you do that is immaterial.
On the other side, I have always maintained that the most important part of a social media program is the simple fact that it is social. Likewise, the most important part of a public relations program is that you are effectively communicating with the public. Ultimately, you are splitting hairs at this point.
My point is this: the idea that there is a “traditional PR” and a “non-traditional PR” is dated. Social media has changed how we communicate, how we engage with our audience and how we involve the customer in the process. There is no doubt that we are in a new age of public relations that is being pushed forward by social media. But PR is PR. Social media is part of PR.
Do I think tomorrow the term traditional PR should be banned from our lexicon? Of course not. Do I think we should work to encourage a more sophisticated view of both public relations and social media? You bet.