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For many bloggers, their experience of PR extends to a deep rooted distrust, borne out of reading about a company or celebrity PR masterstroke or, more likely, a PR disaster. Other bloggers may have actually witnessed the PR (flackus desperandi) in action; possibly due to a cack-handed approach made to them by the PR to get some coverage for whatever goods or services the PR is hawking that day.

As a result, not many people, bloggers or otherwise, have a particularly good impression of the public relations industry. Which is ironic. Physician heal thyself is a phrase that is often heard among PR practitioners when discussing the industry’s image.

I, along with my friend Chris Clarke, have been asked by the Blog Herald to discuss that image in the eyes of its readers (that’ll be you). Hopefully over the upcoming columns (every Friday at 11am EST) you’ll come to see us as dedicated professionals rather than the snake oil salesmen, behind the scenes shyster or immoral spin doctors that we (the industry) have been portrayed as over the years.

This week I’d like to go through the definitions of Public Relations, PR and Publicity. For an excellent, in depth, primer on the subject, I’d suggest clicking over to Wikipedia where better people than I have been hard at work creating an excellent article.

Public Relations is a strategic way of looking at your communications efforts between you and your key constituents. Traditionally, public relations has been practiced through the media; persuading the key journalists, the influencers, to cover a story on your company or product.

Used properly, public relations can be a core strategic asset for any company. Just as advertisers in the 1950’s would advise their clients on what new products would make for the best campaigns, the public relations consultant should (theoretically) advise on what initiative would be best received by the media.

PR on the other hand, can be looked at as the massaging done by a company on a series of unfortunate events. Like a tennis player imparting top-spin, so a company would try to spin an executive departure she left to spend ‘more time with the family’ is an oft used classic. It’s here that the industry has gotten such a bad reputation- some news is quite simply bad news and any attempt to persuade people to the contrary leaves a particularly bad taste.

Public Relations and PR’s misunderstood cousin, Publicity, rounds off this motley crue. Publicity is simply anything that makes the news- good or bad, by accident or design.

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So what does this have to do with blogging? We’re seeing a seismic change in the PR industry and many are embracing the transparency and openness that the blogger era is bringing. We’re now looking to use blogs, podcasts and even Second Life to bypass the traditional media and speak directly to our clients’ constituents. You. If a product has some kinks, tell us directly. If you don’t like a client’s (or our own) ethical standpoint, tell us directly. If something’s right, tell us. If something’s wrong, tell us.

Public Relations is no longer about giving a mainstream media reporter a story, it’s about giving you a voice.

For more Public Relations and Social Media goodness, Ed Lee blogs at

View Comments (8)
  • Ed,

    Thoughtful column on PR in blogosphere. I couldn’t agree more, public relations and blogging is all about openness, as Scoble and Israel preached in Naked Conversations.

    What about Wal-Mart/Edelman, Microsoft Vista and some of the other recent PR blunders? Don’t those mistake effectively shut the blogosphere door on PR?

  • hey John,
    I think the edelman brouhaha still shows the importance of PR in the blog community but highlights the fine line that we walk between getting it right and getting it wrong.

    for the record, i think the vista thing was a combination of a few things –

    1. a slow news period that amplified the story
    2. edelman treating bloggers like regular media
    3. edelman not closing the loop on what to do with the laptop after testing

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