If you’ve been following @tangyslice (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?) you may have noticed that he’s back and tangier than ever.  For a while there he was spending many long hours a day comforting a screaming child – and then he had to go home to his new baby.  Anyway, we were talking about public relations recently and I thought I’d share some of it.  You may also remember last summer’s Web 2.0 PR Agency roundup.

The usual role of PR is to generate awareness, which is conventionally the widest end of the funnel that leads to a sale, or as Blake would have it, the first A of A-I-D-A.  Try the audio clip below, but first turn up the volume and clear the room of anybody easily offended by crass language.


Simple enough, right?  People need to be aware that your product exists before they can get interested in it, etc.  So you hire a public relations (or press relations or just PR if you prefer) company or contractor to help make this happen.

Most folks see PR as the beginning of a classic lead generation funnel.  People hear about your company through press coverage, then visit your site or call you up to learn more.  What’s why many marketeers obsess over the “how did you hear about us” question.  (Note that self-reported data on this question are notoriously unreliable)

But does awareness really lead to interest in more than a couple of already predisposed people?  All these web 2.0 and zen marketing and inbound marketing gurus are saying that you can’t make people do anything, you just have to be there when they decide to do it.  They say it’s all about search and findability, or virality and social connectivity.

Tangy and I were thinking that public relations might have a different, but no less important, function: trust-building.  I proposed that lead generation was better handed by outbound or inbound methods, but that once you’ve got a prospect interested, PR can serve a very valuable role in greasing the skids by providing additional, external validation to the prospect during the sales process.

So I say that for many businesses, PR isn’t going to bring in any leads, but having good, consistent coverage will make the leads that you do have more comfortable with moving ahead with a business relationship with you.  What do you think?  Are these two views really conflicting at all?  Are there different kinds of PR tactics or PR agencies for the different goals?