PR Isn’t Rocket Science so Why is it so Hard to Understand?

October 7th, 2015

Last week I went to a few sessions of Denver Startup Week. As a communicator and a quasi entrepreneur, I was excited to participate. What I got out of the handful of sessions that I attended was more about what was missing than anything that was actually presented.

The big take-away for me was the lack of understanding about PR specifically and more broadly the inability to understand that public relations is a critical component of content development and digital marketing.

This perspective probably is because the first two panels that I attended were “The Future of PR: Publicity in the Digital Age” and “SEO, PPC, and Social Media: The Trifecta of Digital Strategy, Take 2,” which had an absolute packed house.

During these two sessions, not only did I hear that PR is “just an amplification service for content” and that “you don’t need to worry about crisis communications until something happens,” but I also heard some people struggle to answer what to do about SEO when a crisis or bad publicity hit. When did everything go back to being put into siloes? When did people stop talking about integrated communications and start focusing on one practice or discipline over the other? Haven’t we evolved beyond that?

Maybe I just hit two panels in a row that missed the mark and so the omissions were more glaring. But, I can’t help but think all of those entrepreneurs packing those rooms have no idea how PR can help them. Or at what point to engage in PR. They probably know how to pitch Denver’s 9 News and how to create compelling content for SEO purposes, but do they know how to layer PR into those efforts for the most value? Maybe, but that didn’t come from sitting in on those sessions.

I hear the lack of understanding about how PR fits into the content and SEO landscape constantly and these two sessions at Denver Startup Week just reinforced it for me. I do believe that the PR industry is changing, but I don’t believe that dividing functions into separate silos is moving things forward. The lines between these disciplines should be blurred. I don’t expect that an expert in SEO understand reputation management or branding, but I do think that there should be some understanding of when to use what tool.

Will I go back to Denver Start Up Week? Definitely. I’ll just attend more panels and sessions like “Breaking Through Barriers – How A Taboo Topic Can Transform into a Successful Startup” hosted by our friends at Barokas PR in which three founders talked about how to build a brand for a taboo topics like fertility, marijuana and aging. Part of that came from my own interest in learning about different businesses, but the other part was because the three founders talked about things in an integrated way. It wasn’t just about one silver bullet helping them to build a brand; it was how to use myriad tools to build awareness for sometimes difficult topics.