Gini Dietrich

Convergence is the Name of the Game for PR Pros of Tomorrow

By: Gini Dietrich | August 2, 2012 | 

Earlier this year, PRSA undertook the big task of redefining public relations.

Before that, the industry was working with a definition that was 40 years old.

A lot has changed since 1982.

Social media has turned the industry on its head.

And technology is changing more quickly than ever before.

It took the following technologies to reach 50 million users:

  •  Radio – 38 years.
  • TV – 13 years.
  • The Internet – four years.
  •  iPod – three years.
  • Facebook added 100 million users in just nine months.
  • iPod app downloads hit one billion in nine months.

Last year we had two big social networks introduced – Google+ and Pinterest – and the latter is the fastest growing social network…ever.

Technology Changing the Job of the PR Pro

Technology is creating amazing opportunities for us, but also causing some distress. PR professionals now have to add into their skills sets things such as web development, mobile marketing, search, and optimized content.

The web, it turns out, is extremely important in the job of a PR professional. Much more important today than it was even three years ago, as new technologies are introduced and companies are struggling to figure out how to add the latest and greatest to its overall marketing strategy.

It used to be your website was an online version of your corporate brochure. But times, they are a changin’. Your website now needs to be  a living and breathing thing that changes consistently (at least once a week, according to a Hubspot and MarketingProfs study) and becomes less about you and more about your customer.

I like to tell business leaders, when I speak, to take the French out of their sites – the we, we, we.

On top of creating a web presence that has the WIIFM – what’s in it for me – for customers and prospects, we now also have paid media (advertising), earned media (media relations), and owned media, which is the content you produce and distribute.

Owned media is great because, if you can write in an engaging and conversational way, while adding value, you no longer have to solely depend on media buys and influencers and journalists to tell your story for you. You can do it yourself.

The Convergence of Media

The Altimeter Group just released “The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Must Combine Paid, Owned and Earned Media,” which talks about how all three not only integrate, but how the affect the role of the PR professional.

The premise behind this research is the same that Geoff Livingston and I discuss in Marketing in the Round. They say:

Consumers distinguish less and less between paid, owned, and earned media, yet marketers remain specialized in one medium at the expense of the others. Rather than allow campaigns to be driven by paid media, marketers must now develop scale and expertise in owned and earned media to drive effectiveness, cultivate creative ideas, assess customer needs, cultivate influencers, develop reach, achieve authenticity, and cut through clutter.

Convergence is the Name of the Game

The marketing round is described as having someone in the middle of the hub who understands how all of the disciplines work together. This could be a chief marketing officer, a community manager, a communications professional, or even the janitor. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as the person knows enough about each discipline to know when, and how, to bring each in for most effectiveness.

The disciplines then work together, in a round, in an integrated fashion, creating an opportunity to add in owned and earned media with advertising.

We no longer have the luxury to focus solely on one discipline. The PR pros of tomorrow will know how to program, how to write, how to tell stories, how to stay ahead of the trends, how to create policy, how to organize all company communications, and how to measure efforts, as they relate to business goals.

What are you doing to increase your skills so you’re ready to adapt and converge?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.


One of the problems with this "convergence" message is quite clearly stated by Todd Bartlett a couple of comments down from this.  Many PR practitioners (we can act professional, but we don't exactly fit that definition) are "converging" with marketing even to the point to describing themselves as marketing communication practitioners, rather than taking a deep breath and recognizing that the most important aspect of the PR role is helping their organization adjust its behavior in ways more compatible with the expectations of key audiences, and in the public interest.  The outbound role -- that is what we usually think of as publicizing organizational accomplishments -- is secondary at best, and is being greatly facilitated (for sure) by new media channels and mechanisms in the social media domain.  But the most important role of social media in the practice of PR is probably the moment to moment constituency research made possible by careful social media monitoring.

Jack Giesen
Jack Giesen

I'm new to the game, having worked as a communications professional for about a year, but I'm definitely seeing the importance of a diverse skill set. You'll never be an expert in everything, but it's important to understand the basics of how each piece works—even if it's your colleagues who will be taking action on the other pieces.


Thank you for sharing "paid/earned/owned media". I've never heard of a company's content being described as "owned media" before, and I think it works quite well.


@jennymoebius Thanks for the RT!




Great post and I completely agree that public relations is changing and today's practitioner needs to master paid, owned, and earned media. With that being said, shouldn't stop calling ourselves public relations professionals and start calling ourselves what we are- integrated marketing communications professionals.




These are great points. Social media has certainly changed things for PR folks, but I don't think it's changed anything mission-related. Social media is a new tool in an arsenal used to achieve the same goals PR pros were trying to achieve in '82 (I mean, really, the new definition isn't too drastic a change from the old). I'm actually helping an Army unit add social to their public affairs program and it's amazing how difficult it is to convince them that social is an addition instead of a replacement.

Latest blog post: Command Information


Awesome stuff. Funny how much your book and the Altimeter stuff works together. Also amazing (and unplanned) that your post about that topic ran this week on my blog, and we did a Social Pros podcast yesterday with Jeremiah Owyang and Rebecca Lieb this week about the convergence issue. If you're interested, we have the whole transcript on the site:


Sorry I don't have anything exceptional to add other than the French we we we joke was the funniest thing I've heard this week!!


Convergence is something that smart executives in multiple fields will pay attention to. It is a time to learn how to do more than one thing. The ability to shift gears and play 'different positions' might end up being the thing that helps us stay employed.

Latest blog post: The Password is Swordfish

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

quit telling people what to do, smarty pants


I guess I need to learn how to program...ugh...I've always wanted to...but not wanted to because the thought of it makes my head spin...haha


I think this is a great opportunity for professionals and future professionals in our industry. You're not going to be an expert in every skill but being open to learning is important and knowing that it's not enough just to know traditional PR anymore if you want to be competitive in the future. 

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

There, now I can leave my comment. This has shades of book two, Gin Blossom! 


If so, I like where it's going; if not, I like where you're the post I wrote yesterday on not forgetting traditional PR in this social media chaos we live in...YET, the future of the profession IS convergence. 


In fact, that train left the station about two years ago...PR peeps who insist on only the traditional are gonna lose; big time. It's the blend; the converge; the mashup; and that's why we're all having issues defining ourselves. 


PR is poised to be the leader/leading discipline, but It has to get out of its own way first. 


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