by Michael O'Neill
June 26th, 2013

Dear PR Professional:

Can we talk please? Because it is 2013 and you should know this already. You aren’t in the business of writing press releases. You aren’t in the business of pitching the media.

Seriously.

Let’s ignore the fact that those two things are tactics and get to the heart of the matter. They are old-school tactics. If you are centering your thinking around those two mediums then you don’t understand – at all – how your job has evolved. Yet too many of you are stuck. You don’t get the new media environment and you’re fighting it.

Stop fighting. Embrace it.

Digital communications isn’t the future. It’s now. Right now.

You aren’t in PR anymore. You’re in the storytelling business. That’s what you do. You tell the stories of your clients to the world. Sometimes this storytelling includes a press release and media relations, but those tactics shouldn’t be front and center because they are among the least effective ways to tell stories these days.

Press releases are boring, static and formulaic. No one likes them and fewer people read them. Granted media relations can still be important (although it diminishes nearly daily), but if you think about it as “pitching” and not as “media relations” then you’re closed to all of the possibilities – paid distribution, content sharing, partnerships, sponsorships and providing “content” (videos, infographics, apps and images) for news stories.

Storytellers in the digital age need to think about ALL platforms to deliver the goods. The list is long and keeps growing:

- Videos (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)
- Images (Instagram, Flickr, etc.)
- Graphics and infographics
- Applications (including mobile)
- Technology
- Websites (including micro sites and digital newsrooms)
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Blogs
- Live broadcasts
- Curation and aggregation (Tumblr, Storify, etc.)
- Media (partnerships, pitching, sponsorships)
- Paid distribution (social and native advertising
- E-books

- Document sharing (SlideShare, etc.)
- Cartoons and illustrations

I’m sure you can add to the list.

The point is PR people need to be at the strategic center of digital communications. PR people need to be the ones setting the agenda, creating the stories and then helping clients create the multimedia and interactive content that they will then distribute in the right mediums to the right platforms to reach the right audiences.

That’s your job now. You’re not in the press release business. You’re a storyteller.

That’s PR.

George F. Snell III is senior vice-president, digital & social communications, at Weber Shandwick Boston. This article first appeared on his blog High Talk

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