Can Old School Tactics Work in the New School World?

It’s a little dated, but check out this blog from 2009 about a DiGiorno PR idea that experienced some backlash. Basically the blogger says during her time at Chipotle they tried the same tactic of giving popular bloggers and influencers some of their product to try in hopes they would talk about it online. DiGiorno attempted the same thing but some recognized it as a “stunt” and complained.

The point of the blog is that some still push against “new school” tactics and see them only as stunts and manipulation. This was back in 2009, though, and things have only progressed since then. It made me wonder: as we continue along this path, will old school tactics have a place in PR, or will they be pushed against just as vehemently as the example above?

Blurry Lines

One of the major distinctions to point out right out of the gate is that there is no real line between old and new school forms of public relations. There is only one continuous evolution throughout the years, adapting to what the public reacts to. At no point was there a decision to throw out all the previous decades of work to establish brand new rules.

So when some say something about “old school” or “new school” tactics they’re likely separating the two in their mind. And usually this separation has something to do with the virtual world.

For an example, think of the person who lashed out against the blogger methods in the link provided. Would they have been as mad if a journalist in a newspaper had talked about a product? What about a review on a TV show? Does that inspire rage? In the end, it’s the same thing – find people who are willing to talk about your products or services so you can sell them and make money.

The big difference, then, is that blogger who tweeted is supposed to just represent herself saying an off the cuff remark. Some see it as a manipulation when they use their public persona to back a product. In the end, it’s the “faked” digital voice that marks the end of all that is public relations and the world.

Old School

But again companies have to do what they can to move product and spread the word they exist. We’re no longer in the 1950s when we can pay a penny to the neighbor’s kid to run down to the Times to tell them a brand new business is in town. Small businesses are popping up everywhere, many of them entirely virtual. Why wouldn’t the PR behind them be virtual as well?

As more businesses move into the Internet there’s less of a “tie” to their local communities. Sure, Bob’s Buttons may operate out of Canton, Ohio, but they do most of their selling in Orlando, Florida. When they’re going to aid a community or area to help business, why would they care about Canton?

This also goes for an old school tactic like press releases. Bob’s Buttons might sell mostly in Orlando, but people who buy said buttons might not read the newspaper or even online publications. What they do read is craft blogs and how-to videos on YouTube. Instead of wasting time on press releases, Bob’s Buttons will surely focus on those venues instead.

So it remains to be seen what the fate of “old school” tactics will be in the future. There may not be a backlash against it, but we may be witnessing the final days of some classic strategies.

Do you think old school tactics will have a place in future PR?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here:

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