The PR profession loves a debate but it dunalf choose the wrong topic sometimes.  Every day I see endless chatter about the death of the press release, the rise of social tools, the importance of engagement and dialogue and all the rest of it.

It all misses the point.

I’ve used the Black and Decker anecdote before, but once again it’s apposite.  Back in the 80s, so the story goes, they were under pressure from competitors chewing away at their market share in the power tools market.

So the Black and Decker marketing team packed themselves off to a country hotel with a banqueting suite, gazed at each other across the table and had a debate.

The debate revolved around one question: “What do we sell – drills or holes?”  The conclusion was holes.  Off they went, renewed their focus on the benefits and regained the market share that they’d lost.

Let’s apply that to the PR profession.  All of the debate is about the drills.  None of it is about the holes.

When I look at any of the best output from PR agencies, including my own, I don’t see the mechanic (the ‘drill’), I see the story (the ‘hole’).  The story has to be good.  It needs to resonate with an audience.  It needs to be a topic that can be debated or an idea that we are happy/proud/motivated/vain enough to pass on to our friends, virtual friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  If it isn’t that, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s a press release, a tweet, a video or any other expensive-sounding tool in the PR arsenal.

Debating the technical specification is an insular discussion that ignores the real challenge: how to consistently do things that resonate with your customers’ customers.


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