Old Soldiers Never Die
Let's take a closer look at this issue.
Point 1. There's no doubt that with the emergence of the blogging community and self publishing that the sole practice of media relations has taken a hit. However, looking at media relations alone, it's still very much viable. I mean come on, the high-tech magazine, e-Week, has a circulation of 400,000...that's still a great place to get your client's high-tech story placed. There are a plethora of industry trade magazines, online publications, newsletters, television, radio, business press, and local press for all companies to have in mind. Getting coverage in these outlets comes from the practice of media relations. It's not a zero sum game...both disciplines should be in play.
Point 2. Back to my opener...it's true, PR goes much deeper than media relations. You have, well, the art of relationship building. This includes working in employee relations, partner relations, analyst relations, investor relations, government relations, community relations, and vendor relations. Get the point--these publics need someone to work with them, determine where activities and perceptions stand, and offer strategies and programs to attend to their needs. This is a key component of public relations.
That being said, it's essential to understand that the relationship practice has grown and added a few friends. Today, you have to build relationships with bloggers. Now, you also build relationships thru social media and get engaged in the worldwide community so that people will know you, trust you, and like you before they buy from you.
Point 3. While it's true that many of the publics/stakeholders above could have their needs met thru social media (SM), many of them are not up-to-speed with SM and still rely on traditional communication methods. Even more pertinent to this issue, while SM is the wave to ride, you first need followers and participants before you can engage with them. How do you get followers to your Twitter account or blog? The good ol' fashion way...marketing, communications and PR outreach.
Point 4. There are other subsets that fall within the realms of the PR profession which are so essential: investor relations for one. The practice of IR has legal, financial requirements that must be disclosed and issued on a timely basis and this is typically done through PR efforts. Of course, other areas include public affairs, speaking engagements, trade show PR, awards, thought leadership efforts and more--these practices aren't going anywhere.
Point 5. Many of the PR tools are still in play...the press release (although many downplay its importance), case study, white papers, et al. However, this list has grown and today's new tool is content. Companies have to offer current, fresh, and regular content in different sensory forms such as video, audio, and images to be engaged in the community. Content is the new segue in forming dialogue and is an X factor in helping with search engine optimization for your Web site.
In sum...PR is alive and kicking. The lines are blurred and fuzzy on where public relations and social media cross paths, but they both still exist and are key to the corporate communications program. And media relations, being a subset of PR, is crucial as well. IT companies would do well by having a strategy that includes both practices: social media and public relations.