Back in the day, the only way to easily communicate with your public was to use mainstream media and analysts as your mouthpieces. So the public relations department and the agencies they employed spent a great deal of effort convincing editors, reporters and analysts that your company was one worth talking up.
Prior to the Web, there wasn't an efficient way for organizations to communicate directly to the public.
What's the role of public relations in the new world of the web?
There has been an explosion of channels that organizations can reach their audience directly with valuable online content: videos, ebooks, white papers, photos, infographics, and more – and then have that information shared in social networks.
However, many PR professionals still operate as if their only conduit is mainstream media.
Apologies if you've heard this because I've talked about this many times in the past. But there are still many holdouts so I say it again.
Don't confuse the superset (public relations = reaching the public with your information) with the subset (media relations = using the media to tell your story) and therefore insist that PR is only about mainstream media.
What you need to realize is that these are different activities. Media relations is still valid as a way to get attention. Who doesn't want to be quoted in an important newspaper, magazine, or television broadcast?
Today there are so many other ways to communicate with your publics
If your organization operates this outdated way, my recommendation is to re-name your public relations department the media relations department to reflect what they really do.
In this new world, smart PR pros realize they have a tremendous opportunity if they can effectively communicate directly with the public. They are transforming themselves into content creators. However, most are still operating in the traditional press release and pitching mentality.
If you're an entrepreneur or executive, don't put your PR department in charge of content creation for your company (unless they understand completely the power of the new world).