Edward Boches declared in a comment here last week that the “future of PR has more to do with eliminating the barriers between information and audience, rather than being the gatekeeper between them.”
I agree with Edward, however I’d caution us against becoming barrier-less extremists. That’s not what Edward is suggesting, but I have seen many social media experts say that companies and their executives must open themselves up completely for the world to engage with them if they hope to be successful in a digital world.
We’ll need to move toward eliminating the barriers between brands and consumers, but we’ll still need to keep a bit of the guardian mentality in place. Why? Because while our jobs are shifting to require that we provide more access to information and executives, our jobs still entail keeping our brands’ best interests in mind.
Yes, it’s in your brand’s best interest to engage directly with consumers, listen to their feedback and begin building relationships with them. It’s not always in your brand’s best interest to grant full access to executives in a way that bypasses you, especially in working with journalists. They don’t have your brand’s best interests in mind, as well they shouldn’t. They have a job to do and it doesn’t include being your ambassadors.
That means it will remain important to feel out reporters, understand the story they’re trying to tell and work quickly to provide spokespeople with background information for the interview, like potential questions based on your conversations with the reporter, the media outlet’s target audience, the reporter’s previous coverage on the topic, and so on. Doing this increases the reporter’s chances for a better interview than catching an executive off guard would provide, as well as allowing you to better prepare for potentially negative interviews and stories.
I’m not advocating a gatekeeper mentality. Anyone who reads this blog regularly should know I believe strongly in making information more accessible, more engaging and more easily shareable. But, in the case of media relations, I do think it’s important to remember that our primary responsibility isn’t to journalists. It’s to the brands we’ve been entrusted to help steward. That requires knocking down the barriers to information, as well as an appropriate level of guardianship.
There are many great PR prophets out there sharing solid visions for the changing role of PR. However, I’d recommend caution to the ones suggesting that PR should adopt a policy that leaves the gates wide open and completely unattended.
What do you think? Should PR pros hand over the reins completely, share them with those along for the ride or continue serving as gatekeepers? Why?