PR is dead, long live PR.

I was watching the Antique Roadshow on PBS last night and saw the most unusual early 20th century invention. It was a heat-powered house fan. For real. There was a kerosene lamp at the base of a fan that was lit and emitted heat through a series of turbines that powered the fan to begin rotating and cool the room. Who knew?

Unfortunately, as the antique expert explained, electricity was the undoing of the heat-powered fan. And so it goes. Something new always unseats something else. It’s kind of like they say in that Semisonic song: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

A recent Ad Age article reports such a shift:

As the body count of magazines and daily newspapers continues to rise and the once-robust news and feature holes of surviving publications shrink along with reporting staffs, some marketers have given up on the traditional path to media coverage: pitching journalists.

Kind of makes you feel like the world (or at least an industry) is coming to an end. Lots of doom and gloom, as Sam Lucas, chair of U.S. brand marketing at WPP’s Burson-Marsteller concludes: “The traditional one-way media model has definitely had its day.”

This, of course, led to some dramatic retorts from some very defensive PR people, which in turn led me to offer my own public response:

‘Goodness gracious me!’ said Henny-penny; ‘the sky’s a-going to fall; I must go and tell the king.’

My goodness indeed. Unless you have been living in a cave, “Public Relations” stopped being “press agentry” about four decades ago. Even the least sophisticated shops have offered a diversified mix of services, ranging from trade show marketing and customer events to direct marketing and yes, publicity. And I am pretty sure we all noticed the Internet thing about a decade and a half ago (thank you Al Gore).

Our business (PR) has always been and will continue to be a dynamic and evolving industry. The sky is not a-falling, so take a deep breath and just relax.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.