Public Relations vs. Publicity

Just in time for the first update to the Viral Copy section of Copyblogger, the debate about the relevancy of press releases explodes. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Tom Forenski of Silicon Valley Watcher posts Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!, and characterizes a press release this way:

Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus. They often contain praise from analysts, (who are almost always paid or have a customer relationship.) And so on…

No, Tom, that’s a crappy press release. Although you have my sympathy, as I’m sure you saw plenty back in your reporting days.

Steve Rubel chimes in with Everything’s a Press Release, a title that just about sums up his position — he says everything you blog is, in fact, a press release. While I agree with Steve’s sentiment, I take issue with his semantics.

Everything we blog may qualify as public relations, but not everything we blog is a press release. There’s a difference there that’s quite important, as we’ll see.

Finally, Kevin Dugan over at Strategic Public Relations contributes:

It’s the content, not the format, that’s the problem.

Bingo! We have a winner.

Here’s the deal, press releases aren’t dead, but how they’re best used has changed completely, and for the better. A press release is an opportunity to tell a great story about your company, your product, or your blog. What’s more, you can then have that story distributed in a powerful fashion that allows you to connect directly with prospective readers, clients and customers.

And if it also results in either mainstream or new media coverage? Rock on.

The key here is the difference between public relations and publicity. Public relations implies that you have a public to relate with, and that’s who you are speaking to. Preaching to the choir is another way of thinking about it, and I think that analogy applies even to damage control, since the choir gets pretty upset when the preacher disappears with the collection plate (see Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, etc.)

In that sense, blogging is, and should be, the new PR — no doubt about it.

Publicity is something that helps you connect with people who don’t know about you yet, or those who may have heard about you, but are still on the fence. The emerging social media environment allows you to connect with these people in a whole host of ways outside of the mainstream media.

Having a great product or service that gets people talking is key. In the blogosphere, you’re taking the most powerful marketing channel ever (word-of-mouth), and adding the reach and speed of digital communication. The result is word-of-mouth on steroids.

But when you’re just getting started, you need to introduce enough people to what you have to offer before viral word-of-mouth can kick in. The modern press release can definitely help with that.

So here’s your first Viral Copy update How to Use the Modern Press Release. You’ll find out why the press release is still extremely valuable for promotion, plus you’ll get another free PDF download, this time from David Meerman Scott of Web Ink Now. Also, if you haven’t bookmarked the Viral Copy main page yet you might want to, as there’s more cool stuff to come.

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Without getting into a debate about the underlying science, Seth uses global warming as an example of how the way a story is told matters more than the underlying facts. He thinks in this case, it boils down to choosing the wrong words when warning of the possibility of catastrophic climate change.

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OK, Liz, I’ll play.

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Blog Triggers

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What’s going on here?

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