What is it that PR companies actually do in this day and age, and is that industry fit for purpose any more in the virtual Art Market?
The short answer is no, and virtually nothing of any value. In part, because most are operating on an old print paradigm, and seem to think a lifeless write-up about an event, inclusive of a few chintzy words might catch the attention of an editor or journalist, when in fact, most of the time, press releases, and the modus operandi of PR companies, leave a meretricious taste in ones inbox.
Most people generally tend to be fully aware that the digital landscape has changed entirely over the past few years. The old silo areas of public relations, marketing and advertising, have almost blended into one channel in the virtual village. Multi-media applications and presentations with the possibility of specifically targeting an audience in the millions, with an interest in the product or service, which is being offered, is now a reality. This is something we’ve never seen before, and something which will have an astonishing impact on the way we all operate in media land, in the coming years.
As a dealer, I was always aware that PR companies seemed to do nothing, except perhaps stroke egos well enough to obtain a retainer and deal with the occasional wording for a client on an item or event, which might be being staged. In essence, they promised to write some half-baked wording, include images, and then send a PDF out to media in the hope that they might catch some fish.
What on earth is that really worth in this day and age?
Evidence of a shrinking PR market in London can already be seen with companies now aligning themselves, such as Gong Muse and Cawdell Douglas. PR is a quicksand operation, and strength in numbers via joint ventures such as the above, only ads more weight to the inevitable rapid sinking of these operations.
What is it that PR companies actually do anyway?
I’m yet to work out precisely what they do, or bring to the table, and am bemused at how people get suckered in by them. Some PR firms also include other strands to their smoke-and-mirrors operations which include ‘brand development’ and ‘media awareness’, essentially this is more conceited pitch which one should really think twice about. In fact, it’s quite dangerous to employ the services of a PR company looking to reach out into areas in which they have no in-depth experience, or knowledge of how the paradigms have shifted.
In addition, the many flagrantly intrusive press releases which we receive, most of, if not all, exult a complete mental block when it comes to creative or intelligent writing on the subject matter, with a lack of any inspirational or intriguing language, and a dire lack of sensitivity, passion or knowledge of the subject on which they write.
To illustrate this point, we recently received a press release from Paddle 8, an online auction company, and we really couldn’t believe what we were reading, and being asked to consider publishing. It was so boring, that we felt compelled to call the press department and let them know that publishing this would create more damage than good, for both of us. The questions which we asked them about their ‘news’ were, so what? What makes you different, why should people buy into what you do, what is it that makes you anything other than an 'also ran’?
From a network perspective, it seems to us that all PR companies do, in effect, is look for free advertising; that just seems to be their job, although we were offered a car to an event in with a deal this past week. On occasion, and in good faith, we sometimes call a PR company, and we let them know that to work on what they have sent, in terms of completely re-writing (which 99.9 percent of releases need) and publication, takes a lot of time, trouble, expertise, concentration and effort. And the response to this valid point is, more often than not, a swift exit from the phone call.
Most of us on AAD have operated in the virtual space and fully understand precisely what works in terms of high end public relations and marketing (PRM) in that arena, which is something old school PR companies seem to be void of any knowledge of.
There are professional Arts journalists out there, who have an in-depth knowledge of the Art market, who would jump at the opportunity to facilitate and enhance a service or product, which needs to be out there, and in the market.
Given our experience in the web, it appears that success in the virtual arena comes with aligning yourself with brands that have intelligence and passion for the subject matter being marketed. In addition, a sublime space, which is advertisement free, is the ideal venue for supporting a virtual presence, whether that be a News Organization, a Gallery, a Museum or an Art Fair.
We really would like to publish interesting and intriguing multi media experiences, and we are quite simply tired of the boring, shallow and repetitive PDFs which we constantly receive; most of them doing the client a disservice, and certainly adding nothing for AAD’s readers to excite them in anyway.
So what’s happening next?
With the lines now having become blurred in the PR world, and there being no clear delineations between advertising, marketing and public relations in the virtual arena, these various old routes to market have, in essence, merged into one.
If you happen to be dished up some hyperbolic nonsense such as, 'sector- specific', 'channeling a brand’s digital assets', 'create and re-define your branding’, run away as quickly as you can. You are just about to be mugged. I read the other day, on one website, that you got two free tweets in with a deal.
What it boils down to is this with PR companies. Write the cheque, and we’ll tell you what you want to hear. Their job is to rinse you of as much money as they can on one end, and get as much free as they can on the other end. Nothing more, nothing less.
Things have moved on, and the valueless industry of old school PR is no longer relevant in today’s art-world media landscape.