During the 85th day of the recent Outdoor Retailer trade show, or at least what felt like the 85th day, we squeezed into a capacity crowd at the Hotel Monaco bar in hopes of ordering a few burgers.
The bad news was that tables were impossible to come by. The good news is that an old friend was there.
An ad rep for a quintessential outdoor magazine, this old friend has an infectious smile, a contagious affinity for ginger and Crown Royal, and a gets pure satisfaction from twisting my arm, metaphorically, by tossing out not-so-subtle hints that we're competitors.
As much as I try to play it off ... muttering through the Crown haze that public relations and advertising are two completely different things, that the process is different, that the results are different, that the impact on the public is different, etc, etc .... he just smiles and nods and points out that many of his possible future ex-advertisers use the shield of a public relations program to explain why they're not buying a page this year. And every time I hear him say it, it stings.
It stings because I love magazines (almost as much as I love newspapers, which is considerable and legal in only a few states other than Nevada and North Dakota). They have been the storytellers and muses of the outdoor world for longer than I've been around, for sure, and to imagine a world without them is a truly painful vision. Magazines strike a remarkable balance between commerce and art, and the truth is that without one ... the other starts to die.
But my friend's comment also stings because he's right. Public relations is competing with advertising.
It doesn't matter that traditional media relations is only one component of a strategic PR program. It doesn't matter that there is no media relations without media. It doesn't matter that we recommend that all our clients maintain a strategic advertising program.
All that matters is that today's marketing dollars are limited, at best. And when the going gets tight, there's always room for PR.