PR doesn’t care about business outcomes: what PR Week’s internal search function tells you about the industry

PR Week’s web site has a very useful search box that tells you which articles contain certain keyword phrases. It also helpfully breaks out what kind of article the phrase was contained in and the year.  As a result, it provides a useful measure as to how the interests of the PR sector are reflected in the actual words used by PR Week journalists. And perhaps indicates why PR still isn’t taken as seriously as it might be.
For example, the word “pitch” has appeared in nearly 8000 articles since 1995. Unsurprisingly, the number of articles about pitching or pitches rises in line with a recessionary year eg 2001 and 2008.
Phrases such as raising, boosting or building awareness appear in over 5000 articles. The number of articles on this subject peaked in 2004, dropped for a few years and rose again through 2008 and 2009. A total of 83 articles this year have referred to this subject.
The phrase “media relations” appears in nearly 5600 articles. However, having reached a peak in 2004, the term seems to have lost currency in recent times.
The term “Online PR” has 180 articles, with “Digital PR” following closely behind with 168. Interestingly, both of these phrases have been used for nearly 13 years. In fact, a PR Week article from 1997 credits Matthew Ravden, ex-MD of Bite Communications with coming up with term “digital PR” (I’m quoted in the same article saying that “by the end of 1997 the majority of the press will want to receive information in an electronic format.” I was only a decade out).
However, it is curious to note that the phrase “behavioural change” appears in only 62 pieces – and most of those in the last 2 years. Perhaps even more damning, the term “business outcome” appears precisely 3 times in 15 years.
If PR Week is a reflection of the industry, then it shows that the PR sector needs to start using language (and developing services) that better reflects genuine – and quantifiable – business benefits.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see a PR agency talking about how it is helping clients to deliver an improved business outcome rather than simply raising awareness?
Useful links
  • The SBS Interview: Lee Odden – An interview with Lee Odden about how small businesses can take advantage of new opportunities in public relations and social marketing online.

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