Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Lou Hoffman - Advancing PR: It Takes Two to Dance

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 16, 2009

[It's a pleasure to host a guest post by Lou Hoffman, who runs The Hoffman Agency in Silicon Valley.]

By Lou Hoffman

HoffmanAgency.jpgSilicon Valley Watcher has evolved into a provocative voice on the PR industry.

Even if I don’t agree with some opinions – “Media industry is going to hell in a handbasket - Where is PR industry's handbasket?” missed the mark – it’s healthy to have someone care enough about this business besides PR Week to offer up commentary.

Regarding SVW’s latest salvo on the PR industry, “The New Rules in PR – The Old Model is Dead” dare I say it offers a blend of wisdom and common sense.

- No question, social media should be weaved into the fabric of all PR campaigns. The high-priest model often taking the form of a social media practice runs counter to such thinking.

- Totally agree that every PR practitioner needs to treat SEO as a core skill set. You don’t need to be an expert but you better have a baseline understanding.

- The mass email blast was a bad idea 20 years ago.

- I hope he’s right about the mega shops in the throes of being marginalized.

With this said, let’s not forget the macro movement afoot driving these changes.

People – even in the B2B sphere – increasingly buy from companies that stand for something and have an actual personality.

Employees increasingly gravitate to companies where they feel a genuine connection with the company up to the CEO.

These traits largely come from communications.

This doesn't mean slogans or advertisements or clever branding campaigns.

It doesn't even mean public relations.

I'm talking about executives and other employees sharing their personas, stating their views and explaining their actions in an open fashion.

I agree with Tom that PR needs to change to reflect this world. I think the profession has been changing for some time; albeit, at a modest pace.

In this new world order, part of PR’s value comes from a facilitation role.

It’s no longer a game of control.

Which scares the hell out of many companies – even in this “enlightened” place we call Silicon Valley – and brings me to a key point.

Great communications, the type that embraces social media, puts a face on a company and forges connections with a range of stakeholders, requires more than a switched-on PR agency.

It requires a company with the intelligence and chutzpah to deviate from the status quo.

I’ve always remembered David Ogilvy’s line that in the end advertisers get the advertising they deserve.

So it is in the public relations realm.

PR agencies have a responsibility to educate, cajole and perhaps periodically push the client forward.

But we can’t make it happen alone.

Lou Hoffman is the CEO of the Hoffman Agency, a technology focused PR company with offices in Asia, Europe and the U.S. You can reach Lou at LHoffman at Hoffman.com or his blog at www.ishmaelscorner.com. Please send guest posts to Tom at Foremski.com.

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