Sustainable PR

James Franco Survives

In a provocative blog post titled “How B2B PR will fail in 2011,” Bliss PR‘s Elizabeth Sosnow pondered whether B-to-B PR could survive with the same old service offerings to which it has long grown accustomed.

She observes that in the B-to-B space “The number of [trade] reporters is shrinking at an alarming rate.” Yes and no.

Sure, the traditional trade pubs are struggling or no longer wield the clout (or is it Klout?) they once enjoyed. But we’ve also seen an explosive proliferation of niche B-B blogs whose influence rivals, and in many cases, surpasses that of the trade pubs that for so long owned the ability to catalyze coverage in mainstream news outlets.

Bliss PR’s Elizabeth Sosnow

Elizabeth went on to list:

“…the current products that PR believes will solve the problems of a changing environment: Bylined articles. Social media. Newspaper quotes. Trade shows. Media pitches. Press releases. TV appearances. Messaging.”

She then asks:

“How long do we think these will truly meet the evolving needs of reporters and our clients’ targets?”

I RT’d her post, which prompted an exchange on whether content creation and syndication is the answer to our industry’s identity crisis and long-term viability. I truly believe it is.

Those who follow my various musings will know my feeling that in spite of all the changes we’ve endured these last few years, client goals remain the same: each desires a positive branded presence in the media. Of course, the media itself looks remarkable different than just five years ago, and the means for achieving that media presence has evolved.

I suppose if you bucket our “offering” into four categories of media, you’ll get a better sense of how the industry will sustain itself moving forward:

  • Earned Media – Yes folks. My clients (and yours too) still value (and pay for) our ability to convince a journalist to report on their products, services and POV’s. This core competency is not going away anytime soon. Just check out the audio clips from PCNY, the club I run, to hear directly from journalists advising on how best to engage them.
  • Paid Media – As the lines blur between the various marketing disciplines, many PR folks will find themselves in positions to advise on ad spend. And it’s not just TV spots or print display. Paid media also entails SEM (Google AdWords), paid product placement in TV/web/mobile programming, blogger incentive programs, promoted Twitter trends, etc.
  • Shared Media – Today, the Wall Street Journal reported on the Washington Post‘s newly created subsidiary SocialCode to help businesses build their fan bases on Facebook. Buddy Media has built a hugely successful business helping companies tap Facebook’s sharing DNA. While Facebook may be the gorilla of the social media set, countless other communities of online “sharers” exist and can be activated to help clients build their brands.
  • Owned Media – As more and more individuals consume, create, curate and share their news and information via digital devices, it is incumbent upon the modern communications professional to help his/her clients build their digital footprints. Sure, it’s always nice if Wired magazine pays attention to your client’s cool new app, but a compelling video demo of that app can have extra sturdy (and controlled) media legs when Stumbled Upon. (Didn’t Stumble Upon just surpass Facebook as a feeder of social media traffic?) And isn’t good story-telling our industry’s most notable and valuable deliverable? Here’s a recent look at how fashionistas have created their own(ed) branded content.

Elizabeth summed up her post as follows:

“Our product is now content. Here’s what PR content is becoming:

  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • Songs
  • Customer stories
  • Podcasts
  • QR Codes
  • E-Books
  • Curated – or aggregated — streams of information
  • Statistics
  • Video

Take a careful look at that list. How many of these elements are in your planned 2011 PR programs? Can you afford a lack of experience with these products?”

No. We can’t.


  1. Thanks for this post. Today I discovered your blog and I want to say is very interesting and I’ll come back with pleasure. Can you give me more tips and maybe some links about PR?

  2. Great post. Kudos to you both. I think you have it exactly right so long as those listening don’t toss the baby with the bath while they’re getting up to speed as you suggest. Could the two of you put all of this and more into a white paper video to put a finer point on your views?

  3. For years, I used to give my prospective emplkoees a test. It had questions like name the cities where one can find: Times-Picayune, Sun-Times, Herald-Statesman, etc., or match the following with their cities: KGO, WPVI, WFAA… It also had media vernacular and ethical question, i.e., WHat dio you say to Time & Newsweek when they both commit to covering your client exclusively?

    Nowadays, PR pros need new skills sets to properly service our clients. Can they conceive, shoot, edit and post a video? Are they engaged in the social graph? Do they know how to identify and engage the most influential bloggers and industry analysts?

    So the short answer is no. Most of the big agencies and many of the smaller ones are not prepared to face the challenges before us. Do pockets of these new skill sets exist at both? Yes.

  4. I’m so glad you liked the post, Peter. Your “buckets” make lots of sense to me, as well. For example, our own firm is already consulting on advertising as you mention above.

    But it does lead to a related and interesting question. If we are now “content marketers,” do we have the right staff and skill sets in place? I predict agencies will add new performance “screens” for existing staff as well new hires.

    What do you think?

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