I get asked all the time what I think is the future of PR. In fact, I’m keynoting the Ragan Conference on the very topic in Chicago on May 1.
Clearly it’s hard to shake my Magic 8 ball and predict a future, but because the industry remained the same for more than 50 years, it is pretty easy to look and see what we’re not doing right in order to stay ahead.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: PR professionals (and agencies) must adapt, change, and keep up with the times. What we do is no longer about media relations. So why do we insist that’s what we do?
The Silos Inside Agencies
Which would be fantastic if agencies the size of Bliss and Arment Dietrich ruled the PR industry. But we don’t. Not yet.
If you look at the websites of the biggest firms in the industry, most (I found only one that did not) have media relations described – in some fashion – on their home pages. And their own social networks haven’t been updated in days.
Yes, I know the shoemaker’s children don’t have shoes. Blah, blah, blah.
Sure, the big agencies all have digital departments that focus on these things. But they’re typically run by non-PR professionals and the PR departments are still kept silo’d (they clearly need to read Marketing in the Round) and away from their digital sisters. All while toiling away on getting their clients on The Today Show and in the Wall Street Journal.
Habits of Consumers
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s not. But the habits of consumers have changed. How many of you solely get your news from morning news or the national newspaper? I can’t see a show of hands, but I’d venture to guess it’s less than 10 percent of you.
In fact, I ask that question when I speak and it’s really interesting to see, as the months and years go by, the less and less hands that go up.
I also like to ask how people in the audience learned about Bin Laden’s death. I always get answers such as, “Text message. Email alert. Twitter. Facebook.” Actually first learning about it (before the President had his news conference broadcast) is rarely through the traditional channels.
And yet…as professionals, and as an industry, we focus on the traditional channels as our sole means of telling our client’s or company’s stories.
Getting Past Media Relations
Yes, if the client (or your boss) still measures effectiveness of your program through media relations, by all means, make sure you do it. But also add in content and social and email marketing and native advertising and inbound marketing and anything else that makes sense to demonstrate how well they all work together in harmony.
It’s our jobs to find ways to communicate and tell the stories in honest and effective ways that provide value and engage the customer. It doesn’t matter if the customer is B2B, B2c, non-profit, or an association. It’s the same for all of us. We are human beings and we get our information in a myriad of ways today.
Sometimes that means going the extra mile to do some additional work your boss or client didn’t ask you to do. Sometimes it means taking a risk and adding in a component to see how well it works with media relations. And sometimes it means asking for forgiveness, rather than permission (we do that a lot here and we’ve never been fired for it).
The Future of PR
But the certainty of the future of PR is we have to do more than media relations. We have to understand how the lines between our industry, advertising, and marketing are blurring even more. We have to figure out how our customers are getting their information … and go there. And we have to measure our efforts against real business results (which is a different topic entirely).
THAT is the future of PR and we have to get there now. Not five years from now. Not 10 years from now. Now. Today. Or we won’t sit at the table with our forward-thinking, measurement-driven bosses and clients. Ever.
(Ignore this, I’m testing something with SEO. Connect with Gini on Google+.)