Do We Need PR Anymore Now That We Have Social Media?

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The provocatively titled "Is Social Media Killing PR?” event in San Francisco this week has generated a flurry of blog posts, and fueled the ongoing cacophony of Tweets, was hosted, where else, a PR firm.

The discussion hosted Jeremiah Oywang from Forrester, Kara Swisher, AllThingsD, and Susan Etlinger from the Horn Group (the host of the event) and was moderated by media analyst Sam Whitmore–who has been watching the media during its fastest shifts in history.

Raising the question under your own roof is a Shakespearean mousetrap that shows you’re willing to consider that the old ways of influence might be ready for a makeover.

However, the PR iceberg is huge and influence comes in many forms. The ones shooting arrows are the ones sitting at the tip, the ones who brilliantly used the tools of social media to re-cast themselves and their businesses. As mentioned in the Horn Group blog, people like Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington, and the man who once threw a launch party at McDonald’s (I was there, it had a certain sizzle) Jason Calacanis are driving the Death to PR discussion.

Continued after the jump:

That’s what’s ironic about the debate. These three would probably generate publicity themselves in any era and are essentially in the information propagation business. Web 2.0 companies by nature, should also propagate by way of their own design. Others need council, tools, and someone to help deliver their message while they focus on other things.

Swisher and Charlie “Coop” Cooper from CNET both cut to it quickly in their blog posts: “if the message is empty, why bother?”

That’s it: building a great kernel of a message. The Barack Obama victory is a great example. Did he win because of social media? Of course not. His people did use every tool available, but benefited from the right candidate, at the right time, with a message honed by a great staff over time.

New media, social media, and all other forms of communication that have exploded in recent history are new modes of conversation and influence, while the number of filters in which information passes through has exploded as technology becomes cheaper.

It goes back to that classic expression (used by Shel Holtz and others): When you’re selling hammers, every problem looks like a nail.

[Disclosure: My co-editor Joe Ciarallo is employed by the Horn Group]