Still thinking about Morris & Goldsworthy's view that what they call digital PR somehow diminishes its unique strength.
The view chimes with Morris's one time colleague Tim Bell, who is quoted by Richard Bailey in Tench & Yeomans (2009) as describing PR as "the use of third-party endorsement to inform and persuade." This works quite well in explaining 20th century media relations, but less effective as a critique of modern PR, which is shaped significantly by online activity.
The reason PR relied so heavily on media relations was not to do with somehow legitimising and or authenticating its messages but simple logistics. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio were channels for reaching people in ways it was very difficult to achive without them. Get a story in a national newspaper and they do the otherwise very expensive transport work of getting a message out to lots of people very quickly. It was about trucks, trains and transmitters.
Online changes that. Message creation still involves investment but (broadly) distribution pretty much doesn't.
The hard bit is not making content available, but getting it noticed and making it interesting.
Here, big name media platforms are still matter. One of the reasons that it is so useful to have a message covered by a major news platform, be it the Guardian or the Sun, is that 'traditional' media stories are much more interesting. And they are interesting, partly because of the skill and judgment of the writers but mostly because good stories and features draw on many different sources in a way PR puffery does not.
The added value is not so much "If it is in the Financial Times it must be true" but that the richness of journalism adds context. It is hard for so-called brand journalists to draw on competitor sources or find the oblique perspectives that make for a compelling read.
Te traditional send-a-press-release-to-the-usual-suspects style of media relations has to be superseded by making interesting information to a wide range of commentators, some of whom will have the skill to weave compelling content. OK, few will begin to deliver the circualtion numbers associated with the heyday of Fleet Street, or even today's Wapping, but both the cumulative effect and the ability to engage with sophisticated niche areas offers every bit as much potential.
(Approaching this from another angle, it is easy to see Twitter retweets, for example, as an archetypal example of the third party endorsement model. I read this and needed to pass it on).
One of the weaknesses of discussing "digital PR" is that it seems to encourage the view that it is about digitising the same content that has always been part of PR outputs, a bit like drawing the distinction between a film camera and digital camera. Somewhow it misses the crucial implications of digital transmission, which are about unlimited reach and unlimited replication and amplification.
Organisations used to need to hitch a ride on high capital cost media platforms to achieve reach, replication and amplification. Now they have direct access to the channels - if they can create the right content.
Digital PR doesn't undermine PR's unique selling point, it makes doing what PR should do more worthwhile (if more challenging).