The often less-than-happy link between journalism and PR is breaking apart as PRs look to do more that is aimed direct at consumers, as reported in the Independent. To be honest, I thought trade/B2B sector would see this first, pointing to the possibility back in 2007. I forgot to factor in the larger amount of money that goes into consumer PR, which could translate into a greater willingness to take chances.
Despite an apparent trend driven by appointments of journalists by PRs that are not account-director roles, it's worth having a closer look at the examples of direct PR that Edelman cites. They are not dramatically different from the work already done by agencies where they expected just press coverage in the past or were creating material for user or sales meetings.
Although PRs might have grasped the idea that direct communication with consumers is worthwhile, there is a big question mark over whether their clients will like what they plan. The advantage for the PR of having the press in the way is, to an extent, deniability. They might be aware of the consequences of using a particular approach but if it goes pear-shaped, it's still possible to blame the journalist for "misunderstanding the message". If you take away that layer, the people in charge of promotion or engagement or whatever you want to call it are far more exposed.
So, in the short term, I'd expect the opposite of what should happen to take place. The trend in recent years, despite all the talk about engagement and two-way communication, has been to sell, sell, sell. Don't go off-message, no matter how dull that message might be. Because no-one is going to get fired for sticking to the pre-approved script. At least not until companies start to see their profiles become less and less prominent. Then they might have a go at proper communication.
This will have an effect on the way the media operates but learning to work around the relentless stream of dull, self-serving messages has been part of the game for a while.