Public relations is a dying market--and if you think otherwise, you are on the side of the fence that can't see what's on the horizon.
What does that mean? Public relations, by its most commonly understood definition, is the equivalent of a billboard. It's old. It's outdated. And it doesn't work because nobody cares. You could be screaming your brand's name at the top of your lungs, and nobody would pay you any mind.
Because what's on the horizon, and what is already happening, is a drastic shift in how people consume information.
People don't want to be told something.
They want to learn.
Let me preface this by sharing some of the different perspectives I have seen the "public relations" industry from: Between the ages of 17 and 19 I maintained one of the most popular World of Warcraft blogs on the Internet, back when "eSports" was just started to become a thing. When I left for college, I spent a year and a half at one of the top journalism schools in the country (University of Missouri), where my teacher told me that "Blogging was a trend" and wouldn't put a dent in "true journalism." In front of a 500 person lecture, I told him he was wrong and transferred the next year. I spent another three years studying creative writing at Columbia College Chicago, where I was then told that the only way to get published was to submit letters by snail mail to publishing houses. I paved my own way instead. I wrote over 500 answers on Quora and had material published in TIME, Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and more. One of my answers went viral and accumulated over 1M views. Dozens of others hit over half a million views. Total, I have racked up 13,000,000 views on my writing, just on Quora alone--and that's not counting the articles that were republished by other major publications that went on to be viral hits as well (like this one on Business Insider with 1.2M views). When it came time for me to release my first book, I declined working with agents and self-published instead. I hit #1 on Product Hunt and #2 in two different categories on Amazon on the first day.
I generated more PR for myself than most big brands and businesses receive in a year, or two, or five.
And do you want to know how?
I focused on providing people true value.
Having reached the amount of readers I have, and being a columnist here on Inc, I am constantly pitched by PR companies to write about their clients.
And I am floored by their approach. It's unprofessional (at least spell my name right!), it's devoid of any thought provoking hook, and it's focused on all the wrong things.
I share this because I genuinely want to help.
I want to provide you, PR firms, true value.
Can I share with you a little secret? Nobody cares about your client. Nobody cares how much they've achieved, or how much money they've made, or how many employees they've grown to in the past year, or even how "cutting-edge" their technology is. Seriously. Re-read that ten more times. Nobody cares. And as soon as you understand that nobody cares, you will be able to focus on what they do care about.
And what people care about is what's relevant to their lives.
People want to learn something. They want to improve in some way, shape, or form.
Instead of writing about your client, write about what your client learned along the way that someone else could benefit from (and please, do not use the three most cliché, beaten-to-death examples: hard work, persistence, and doing what you love. Obviously. Either come up with something else or go into so much detail that your article is the best thing written on the Internet for that day.)
Instead of writing about your client, write about the life lessons that can be applied to any industry.
Instead of writing about your client, write about where the industry is going as a whole--and actually provide some intelligent commentary.
Instead of writing about your client, write as if your client doesn't exist and you are tackling a topic, a subject matter, and really digging into it--and then use your client as a credible resource.
That's the key. You have to flip it.
Nobody cares about your client.
What they care about is the subject matter. The knowledge they can extract and apply to their own life.
And the irony is, if you can do that well, then your client will get promoted by default. Because they are the credible resource.
So, going back to the beginning: Public relations is a dying market. It's dying because too many people still think that anyone is going to spend more than thirteen seconds reading about how your business is "ahead of the curve" when we all know they really aren't. They're just like everybody else. There's no value in bragging. There's no value in talking about how great you are. There is only value in credentials if they are being used to reinforce a larger point and teach something--hence my accolade extravaganza at the top of this piece. They aren't the focal point of the story. They are used to reinforce the larger message.
Public relations is a dying market. And it's dying because people are lazy. They don't want to actually dig in and figure out what the lesson is, or what they can teach people. They just want to get something "placed" for their client so they can keep them on retainer.
Just because you post something on the Internet, doesn't mean a lot of people will read it.
Writing something is easy.
Writing something that reaches 1 Million eyeballs is an art.