PR in Transition

June 11, 2009

One of the more interesting articles I have read on the present and future of public relations ran today on the San Francisco Business Times site. The article is largely based on a thought-provoking post by another journalist on his blog SiliconValleyWatcher.

Now let’s ignore the typos that tell you something about the present and future of journalism and focus on what these posts have to say about PR, because the insights are rather dead on. I’m paraphrasing here, but here are the points that really resonated with me:

Point #1: The PR industry (like the media industry) is in a severe state of disruption in the face of Web 2.0.

Point #2: Journalists receive far too many uninformed, inappropriate, misdirected and even insulting pitches from inexperienced, junior-level PR people. With journalists and bloggers drowning in a sea of information, these pitches are more irrelevant than ever.

Point #3: PR pros (and many clients) still focus far too much on print media and not enough on internet media.

Point #4: Monthly PR retainers will vanish, replaced by a project-based model. (See my thoughts on this below.)

Point #5: PR people need to embrace and master social media.

Point #6: PR needs to focus on outcomes, not outputs. Clients need to understand this, too. Clients who measure the effectiveness of PR based on how many press releases the agency pumps out are kidding themselves.

Point #7: As in any good relationship, PR pros need to say “no” to clients who have lame ideas. It’s a fiduciary duty, really.

What does all of this tell me? Now, more than ever, it’s about quality, not quantity. That is something I fully embrace. It’s how I live, and it’s how I want to work.

Now some people might be scared about this stuff. But for me, individually, I fully embrace all of these changes. They make sense. They reflect how media is now generated, presented and consumed. They reflect how I and everyone I know get news and information. They reflect how I’d prefer to deal with my clients.

I feel that these changes ultimately will make for better, more effective PR. The issue is how to quantify and report it to clients… not to mention, how to charge and bill for it. This is where things are likely to get dicey in many cases. For their part, clients need to understand these changes as well. It’s going to be a long process, but it’s going to make all of us better on the other side.

The problem right now is making this transition. We’ve all got the legacy of old-school thinking dragging us down too much. We don’t need to reject all that we know, but we need to incorporate it into a whole new way of doing business. We must embrace change and lead.

The PR firms (and the talented, thoughtful people who work for them) who get all of this will survive. The ones who keep on keepin’ on as if its still the 80s or 90s or, heck, the early 00s, are likely going to be left to the dustbin of history.

Now, as far as Point #4, retainers vs. project-based work, this speaks to our very livelihoods as PR professionals. This hopefully won’t happen overnight, and for many clients, retainers will still make more sense. But PR firms must embrace project work. It’s a less secure way to operate, but it will enhance our value as a profession in the end. Think of it like the legal industry. Some lawyers work on retainer, others take work on a case-by-case basis. The fact is, we provide expertise. We provide a valuable service. We need to be available to share that expertise with companies who need it, at a moment’s notice. A side benefit is that our mission becomes much clearer when we work on a project with a beginning and an end. I believe it will inspire us to work harder and work smarter.

We can still make a living. But we must understand that the economic rules, as well as the media world, are changing permanently, and we must change with them.

Posted by Joe Paone

Twitter as an App?

February 11, 2009

Twitter has caught on like wildfire around the world. Not only are us “regular” folks using it to update our friends, keep up with the latest news, etc…, you’ll also be hard pressed to find a celebrity that isn’t on it, twittering away from their CrackBerrys on some exotic island.

Started in 2007, Twitter was initially used as a platform to update your social network, possibly find some other random tidbits that interest you, but has since blown up to include everything under the sun.

Now, I admit, I’m not a Twitter fan. Personally I just don’t have the time (or motivation) to keep “tweeting” random updates all day long. But that’s just my opinion, and looking at the way this site has expanded over the past year and a half, I know I am in the stark minority. There are a lot of people that utilize this every day for things like keeping in touch with children, friends, finding opportunities for your company (as several “Casterites” have been able to do) and to get up to the second information from your favorite news sites. But what amazes me is how many companies are really embracing and exploiting the endless possibilities of Twitter.

Wired just wrote a blog post which talks about the crazy products and applications that stem from the popular site. One of my favorite has to be this company Botanicalls which sells a Twitter enabled that lets you know your neglected house plants are thirsty. It seems that people are figuring out how to do anything and everything through Twitter. New applications like “Twittershare” and “Tweetcube” allow users to share large music files. Twitter’s limited format of short, text-based announcements are a natural match for sites like TrackThis, which you can use to get status updates on FedEx and UPS packages, and Tweetajob, which job seekers can use to get real-time updates about new job openings.

Home automation programmers are even getting in on the action. We’ve all heard of your smart home being able to update you on the status of your home, for instance, when the door to the house is opened, you can get email/text alerts letting you know about the activity. One programmer actually set up an application where his dryer will “tweet” him when the cycle is done, so he knows when he has to go and fold them to avoid the dreaded wrinkles.

We all saw the race to create iPhone applications over the past year. I guess Twitter is the new “it” app that will have manufacturers racing to get their products integrated.

I find this absolutely amazing. While I may not be a Twitter follower, I am impressed with the ingenuity of its users.

I’d be intrigued to hear from you guys. Do you know anyone who has created a really cool Twitter app?

Posted by: Lauren


October 23, 2008

It’s no secret to those in this office that over the past month I have immersed myself into anything and everything social media.  It is an element of communications I always believed in – being a blogger myself and participating in the larger online community.  But I never knew exactly how I could add my knowledge on this medium to my job – that is, until it just hit me.  One day, very early in the morning over a cup of piping hot coffee.  I checked the daily news, headed over to some blogs and found this guy.  There was no going back. 

There are a lot of skeptics out there but let me be the first (or the hundredth) to assure you – web 2.0, social media, social anything – whatever you want to call it – it is very, very real.  And it’s not just for your twelve-year-old niece either.  The interactivity of the web has caused hundreds of thousands of people to take part in communities both small and large, creating a universe that moves fluidly between the internet and real life.  Gone are the days of the internet as a two-dimensional creature, existing only as a medium to deliver messages.  Welcome to the age of listening.  That’s right, listening. 

Social media is forcing companies to listen to the chatter around them as opposed to plugging along, pushing out approved messaging without considering the feedback from the intended audience.  I say forcing but I don’t mean it in a negative way at all – quite the opposite. 

In a Web 2.0 seminar at the CEA Industry Forum this week in Las Vegas, I listened as Comcast’s VP of Corporate Communications discussed the implications of one YouTube video (the sleeping technician) and how it transformed the entire communications strategy of the multi-million dollar cable giant.  Implementing a series of new plans, including several Comcast Twitter accounts designed to help customers have easier access to service technicians, the company turned corporate communications on its ear and gave its customers a better way to be heard.

What is her point? – you might be wondering.  Is this a revolution of the way we as PR professionals do our jobs?  In my humble opinion – without a doubt, absolutely.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter: ashleyatcaster