So, what ever happened to marketing and PR? As an art and a science, did they even make it into the 21st century, or did they fall into a ditch somewhere, and we never noticed?
Before we get started, I’m not saying that that all marketing and PR is bad or wrong nor that everyone who does them is rubbish. There are certainly still exemplars, but if you want a bland, ineffective and banal image – well, that’s the way to bet, because that’s what so much of the industry seems to be delivering.
Let’s define our two basic terms to start with: Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service [Thanks, Wikipedia]. And PR (AKA public relations) is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public [Again, Wikipedia].
These sentences warm the very cockles of my confirmation-bias, as they succinctly describe what I have always understood them to be, from a very early age, and what I was taught they were (rather later on).
Two very important functions. Whatever happened to them?
That’s a good question. On one hand, you might consider them to be alive and well and flourishing. On the other, though, if you look closely, most of what seemed to be healthy growths really looks more like blight.
“The process of communicating the value of …” etcetera. Think about that. Really think about it. Okay? Now think about some of the media releases or Web-sites from whatever companies you have in mind at the moment. Pick a few.
You’ll probably notice (as I have) that they all sound more or less the bloody same.
Oh, it’s not like words stuck in a template – they’re clearly individually written – but don’t they exude a feeling of blandness? Of a lack any sense of individuality, uniqueness, innovation or value (and, all too often, a lack of proofreading)?
Do they really convey any sense of value of those products and services to you, or are a handful of bullet-points and buzzwords scattered like raisins in a thin and unsatisfyingly bland gruel of words and images, just like their competitors, and just like the folks in almost every other industry?
They say that advertising rates have been dropping for the last couple decades, because you and I (the readers/viewers) aren’t responding to them like we used to. Maybe that’s because (in the main, not totally), marketers appear to have stopped actually trying as hard – if they try at all.
“As a company grows, its brand must evolve to meet that need. The brand should continue to embody the spirit of the company origins, but also speak to the future. The company’s new logo is the vehicle to showcase that brand.” Lots of new companies have gotten new logos in the last year. Without resorting to a search engine, can you even figure out what industry that might be?
“Our logo is so much more than a collection of shapes and colours. It’s the flagship of a brand that represents everything [we stand] stand for. During the creative process, we wanted to incorporate our rich history with our shared vision for the future. The vibrant colours and sleek typeface are both modern and timeless. [Our] new logo redefines our visual legacy. It charts a bold path forward. And since our legacy is shared by everyone [here], this logo truly does belong to us all.”
I’m sorry. I got so caught up in the words that I appear to have missed the fact that there’s no value being communicated here. I’m guessing the writer of this text kind of missed that as well.
I know, trying to market a change of logo isn’t an easy task. As my father used to say, “that’s what separates the sheep from the goats.”
At least half of marketing can be done by just about anyone, with little skill, talent, thought or ingenuity – so I suppose it isn’t surprising why something like more than ninety percent of it looks like it was done by those folks. Marketing is like comedy (and management) – everyone thinks they can do it better, even if they can’t.
So, banal and demotivational sea of marketing? There you have it. The good ones are almost lost in the noise. There are hundreds – thousands even – of good marketing agencies with good marketing people. Regrettably, most businesses will never bother with good marketing. They won’t even try.
Now, where’s PR in all of this? I’ve purposely left PR until last.
Over the last more-decades-than-I-care-to-admit-to, I’ve had occasion to be involved with a lot of PR departments and firms. Mostly as a consumer of PR, sometimes as a PR bunny myself.
Now, in the mid-to-late 1990s, something very fundamental changed. No, not the Web. Well, not only the Web.
PR people started getting quiet.
It started slowly. A few at first, then more and more.
They stopped answering phones, returning calls, responding to emails, taking questions, and answering questions.
Are you a journalist with a major national newspaper, and you have a clarification question about a politician’s media release? Good luck getting anyone on the phone to talk to you. If you do get someone, they might hang up on you rather than answer your question.
That’s just par for the PR course these days.
Again, I stress that not everyone in PR is like that. I know some great PR people, really. But in the main? Whew.
Like reclusive artists who send a work to a gallery, without a title and nary an explanation as to what it means.
These days, the majority of PR people won’t communicate, and I’m starting to wonder if many of the newer generation of them even know how to, anymore.