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April 09, 2010


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Good post Dave, but I have to disagree with your close. I don't think it's an either or situation to specialize in media relations and/or social media. It's really all about what's best for the client and their budget of course. I think there's flex room for PR pros to be skilled in the more traditional components of PR and get experience in the newer social media domains, integrating these components for clients as needed.

RuthAnn Bowen

Excellent post. Thank you for the insight. I believe a cohesive PR plan includes both social and mainstream media. If you're looking to get coverage for your company or client, why on earth would you exclude social media? It offers such a broad (yet focused) landscape of PR opportunity.

Roberta Guise

Wholeheartedly agree that media relations is a subset of PR. Though I can't imagine why PR pros would want to limit themselves to working just with mainstream media.

I advise my clients (small biz owners, "solopreneurs" and non profits) to view social media (SM) as an extension of PR. SM gives the business control over publishing, while providing numerous opportunities to communicate their message and build communities/tribes (however you like to call it). The big challenge is getting an audience, and keeping it.


Great post! As an MBA student wanting to be in PR or communication area, I have been confused by impression I got so far from PR pros that PR is only about media relations. From this post we can conclude PR is just one part of marketing, to support the relations with public at large.

Also, just one quip, should PR include government relations? I know lots of NGO or nonprofits in China have to do GR things. What do you think?

David Meerman Scott

Thanks all for your comments!

@Lscribner - I don't mean it is either / or. That is not what I said.

I am suggesting to those who feel that PR and Media Relations are the same thing that they need to either open their eyes to what they are really doing (the subset) or become educated to the realities of the superset.

David Meerman Scott

Steven -

Yes, of course there are other subsets of Public Relations besides Media Relations.

They include Investor Relations (IR), Analyst Relations (AR) and as you say Government Relations (GR). There are probably others.



Regarding your career advice: I think most people starting out their careers in PR are forced to focus on media relations, as that's what the external view of PR frequently is. This is especially true of the agency world, where there is immense pressure to simply get media coverage without regard to whether or not it's effective or going to have an impact on the client's business.

Amber Avines

David, as always, I love your take on things. I make a point to differentiate these two areas whenever I speak with peers and they just don't get it. It's kind of ironic given the words public and media are easy to understand and clear in definition.

Thank you for always being a voice of reason in a noisy space.

Bill Sledzik

I'm surprised the comments are so focused on the channels of communication vs. relationships with publics, which is where PR professionals should be focused. I'm also a surprised no one has mentioned PR's most powerful comm channel: face-to-face.

I don't want to read too much into one thread, David, but the discussion following your post reinforces a criticism made of the social-media proponents: that they focus too much on tactics.

I must disagree with Steven who calls PR "one part of marketing." PR is sometimes part of the marketing mix, but its reach goes far beyond the 4 Ps. Government relations, investor relations, community relations, employee communications and crisis management have little to do with marketing, but are key elements of PR practice.

I'll agree with lscribner. You use the strategies and tactics that are best for the client. Limiting oneself to just mainstream OR social media is a mistake.

Sometimes, though, effective PR requires no media at all -- just dialog.

Sidenote: Your book is a big hit in my Media Relations class at Kent State. I think it's because, like a good PR pro, the book isn't limited to media relations!

David Meerman Scott

Thanks Bill.

An honor to have you stop by. And really great to hear that you have started a masters program in PR!

Yes, I agree that I (and the commenters) have missed the all-important face-to-face aspect. I'm also a big fan of public speaking as a form of PR.


Tim Hurley, BluePoint Venture Marketing, Lexington Mass.

David, I liked the post and agree with you. I am sure it is going to foster a lot of dialogue in the coming days. However, I really question how many PR people (other than those over the age of 60 perhaps - sorry, if I have offended anyone) have not over the last 3-4 years broadened their skill sets to focus on their many different stakeholders and the new vehicles to reach them - YouTube, blogs, vblogs, fb,twitter, custom online video, etc. Like others who commented above, I feel that any communicator - PR or marketing that focuses only on mainstream media or marketing programs is in serious danger of extinction.


Good pint Bill. Maybe better way to say is that PR is expansion of marketing. Maybe it's like product and sales relationship: without product(brand)PR is just relationship (personal relationship without added value?);without PR marketing is at risk to damage of relationship (reputation or crisis).

Just some inchoate thoughts. Great comments anyway!

David Meerman Scott

Tim - I meet PR people all over the world who fall into my category. (I've given talks in 15 countries in the past year or so). Yes, there are many of them out there. But they're not likely reading this post...


Martha Conway

Glad to see this distinction being made, David! Over the years I've explained to many clients and colleagues that media relations requires PR skill, but in itself is simply a tool in the PR's toolbox. Since the internet has expanded the toolbox, it seems easier for PR pros to get lost in the allure of the latest shiny new object. Without a clarity of message, defined publics and purpose for a communication, it all becomes so much clutter.


Hi, David. With the advent of Web 2.0, many PR professionals have had to scramble to learn about, and offer, social media services. I can't imagine that there's enough work if they just focus on traditional media relations without adding the larger public relations component.

Mike Boehmer

Strategic public relations involves Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation.

A lot of this discussion seems to focus on the Implementation step, which is vital, but only part of the strategic PR process.

It's kind of describing a football team in terms of passing, kicking and tackling--and not mentioning that there is a well-researched game plan based on scouting, previous experience, coaches' input...

Anyway, really appreciate the discussion. Thanks everyone!


David...Thanks - Good Post...

I agree with all of your comments. I prefer to think of it as "Public Relations Marketing". Regardless of how we try to disect the terms, the process involves Marketing a company's message to different segments of the general public.

While each term might focus on different aspects - from Branding Strategy and Web Design to Media Advertising and Social Marketing - it's all about communicating a consistent Marketing message.

Thanks again...

Jayme Soulati

My first time here, David, and thanks for the provocative topic. I've been visiting this similarly on my new blog of late.

Wrote a post recently "PR Drives Marketing." Got a lot of comments from both sides either firmly agreeing or saying no way. (Knew that would be true!)

I've been a media relations pro for 26 years AND have needed to blend marketing and now social media and Internet marketing into my offering mix while always updating my capabilities.

Public relations is only dead to the practitioner who is not compelled to continually re-engineer and innovate along with the tide.

Public relations is defined by market demands AND strategy. Social media is the best thing that's happened to public relations, and those who play strictly in traditional media relations are not doing themselves or their clients justice.


Interesting to hear the reactions from public relations veterans here in the comments.. I agree media in general is changing.. but it's the responsibility of everyone to change along with the times - as long as you can, then you will thrive.


Thanks for your post David!
I think that with the advent of web 2.0, the distinction you made between PR and Media relations is no longer so clear.
If you think about the increasing number of individuals and companies who run important blogs, in today's world almost anyone (who has a reasonable number of followers/friends/subscribers) can be considered a "medium".


Thank you, thank you, thank you. The "Public Relations doesn't equal media relations" conversation can't be had enough.

Now it's time to take it a step further and look at how PR, marketing and sales are related. Far too often PR people attempt to distance themselves from marketing and sales, and forget that they have a responsibility to track and measure how their work impacts the bottom line in their organizations.



Bill Sledzik has it exactly right. Personal relationships with media pros get your story published or broadcast. Social media and all the tips from your book "New Rules" are for the rest you don't have personal relationships with.


Tatyana Gann


I agree what you said about the role of Public Relations expert. it is about reaching audience. I have been asked by many biz owners why they need pr professional. Here is the simple answer. Perfect, short and simple! Thank you

Tatyana Gann

Tatyana Gann


I would love to add that public relations profesional has an advantage of face to face communication. I think without PR the business loses its buzz. The marketing campaigns without utilizing pr pros is like drinking decaf cappuccino and thinking it will give you buzz. PR professionals build that bridge that holds it all together and opens the doors to opportunities where nobody had courage to go... Just my thoughts.


Public relations are so often confused with media relations that nowadays that crisis of the press and of adv budgets on the so called "old media" are questioning the survival of many PR consultants and agencies. Sometimes firms turn their business into digital relations or CSR services, trying to provide to the market something new and still up to date.

but sometimes the question is, does it really interest my public? is my target so committed to social media or sustainable topics? Or is this just a part of the whole?

Tony DeFazio

Provocative, but I believe a misleading headline. Of course media relations is public relations -- that is, it is an aspect of it, and for years, was the bulk of it because organizations recognized it was the most influential. And today it remains relevant. Just ask any business owner who wants to influence opinions, sell product, move markets and increase profits. The difference is today the mix of tools is more diverse. If the discussion is what is PR, then I suggest fundamentally it is about building relationships and storytelling. That won't change in social networking, web 2.0 or digital communications.

David Meerman Scott

Tony, of course media relations is still important. However, so many people I encounter who are classically trained PR people think that's all there is.

Sharon J.

I don't PR is dead because of social media but it's obvious that it has taken on a different role and avenue. It's a web 2.0 world so you just have to roll with the punches.

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