Someone asked this question today in Quora, and I felt compelled to answer it on a wider scale, because the fact that so many startups and entrepreneurs are asking it troubles me.

Is public relations still relevant? Quick! Get my pills!

Public relations is still, and always will be, relevant!

I believe the term, “marketing,” should be killed and renamed, “public relations.” As you can see, I’m a bit passionate about this.

Break it down: “Public” — really should be “publics,” because an organization has many audience segments (prospects, customers, employees, vendors, shareholders, etc.)…. and “Relations” — the art of building beneficial relationships that serve the interests of both the “publics” and the organization.

These days, the term ‘PR’ is being worn in other disguises as the marketplace shifts into greater use of technology to communicate and sell sh*t.

As the marketing function scrambles to reinvent itself during this shift, it is doing a major turf grab for the public relations function.

Here are some activities that have historically been relegated to the PR department which marketing is now latching onto:

“Earned Media” (PR function) — getting media coverage. Media coverage is “earned,” not “bought.” (Advertising, which generally falls under the marketing umbrella, is “paid” coverage.) Since today’s consumers are becoming increasingly immune to advertising, direct mail and other sales solicitations, marketers are scrambling to teach themselves how to succeed in the realm of “earned media” strategy.

Content Creation (PR function) — Articles, newsletters, blogs, press releases, white papers, Op/Eds, video, podcasts, etc. Non-sales content generation is a PR function. We PR professionals are groomed for this function by deep and wide training as journalists and business writers. Today’s marketers are scrambling to up-level their writing abilities. Previously, a “copywriter” is a marketing expert who knows how to do an amazing thing — write sales copy that sells sh*t.

Content Marketing (PR function) — Placing the articles and getting all of content out into the marketplace to the right people at the right time with the right message. PR aims to change attitudes, opinions and behavior by providing information the audience wants and craves. Today’s audience makes purchasing decisions based upon how well the organization has earned its trust and credibility.

Platform Building (PR function) — PR attracts followers to social media channels. It builds brands. Today, the most crucial “brand” is the “personal brand.” Today’s organization aims to build as many followers as possible through public speaking (PR writes the speeches and trains the speakers), writing “lead magnets,” (which are pieces of information for which prospects will exchange their email addresses in order to download said information), podcasts, special events and other such reputation building activities.

Marketers have begun calling all of the above activities “marketing.” Marketers who do this would do themselves huge favors, career-wise, to understand the underlying strategies behind the superbly effective business function called “PR.”

Happy to answer more questions about this!