"PR is not about ‘pushing’ news, rather it is about creating relationships “with the greater communities of influencers and users who can help extend a story, intentions, value, and sentiment as a means of driving awareness, building communities, and empowering advocates over time”. [...]This approach has to be seen in the wider context of the adaptation of public relations management that professional PR companies are going through these days. If I may summarise their tactics in two simple words: "Lull & Distract".
[...] Brussels agencies are keen and the tools are all around us, but it remains to be seen whether Brussels and its opaque institutions are ready for them.
I challenge you to name a single senior Brussels PR executive who has 6 influential bloggers and 4 prolific Twitter users on speed-dial rather than 10 members of the Brusssels press corps (and who is willing to take his or her story to them rather than to the press)?"
The first step is to become part of the community, if there is something like a "community":
PR companies establish blogs, like The Lobby (by Grayling), Public Affairs 2.0 (by Fleishman-Hillard) and Hyperthinker (by ZN) or at least react to blog posts written by others, like you could recently witness with the Hill & Knowlton CEO reaction to one of my blog posts.
More refined seems to be the strategic positioning of Burston-Marsteller:
Through the establishment of The New EP, a website informing about everything around the new European Parliament, including a blog-like front page that can be easily subscribed via RSS, as well as through the support of political debates, including the coverage on Twitter, they are apparently trying to build
- public attention,
- an image of competence in EP matters, and
- trust and relationship through targeted interaction with the euroblogosphere and the eurotwittersphere.
But what one has to remember is that these companies want sell their services to well-paying customers.
All their activities are part of a strategy, either to position themselves as established players to get clients or to use their position to influence political actors for their clients. They are in competition with each other, competing about attention, about money, about influence.
Their interest is not to contribute to political and social debates because they have convictions that they like to defend. They don't socialise, inform, and discuss because they have so much fun doing this. They need to do this as part of their job, a job where they are not the actors but the advisors or the executors of whatever they are asked by their clients.
As soon as everyone around is lulled, accepting their activities as natural intervention of well-informed and competent actors, they will start using their position.
They will be bought (if they aren't already) by clients who are happy to get trusted and already embedded players to distract the general attention and to steer it towards the topics that their clients want to see discussed, at best going into the political direction the client would like them to go.
One of the "best" examples are GPlus and Aspect Consulting, which got nominated for the Worst Lobbying Award, supporting the Russian war propaganda, even though the strategy was still rather classical.
Altogether, I am watching the activities of the European PR agencies with interest but with caution - because they know what they do, and they do it for money.
PS.: And by the way, PR agencies are one of the most frequent recognisable groups of visitors to my blog.