Lots has been written about how PR is evolving over the last couple of years. As an industry, we’ve been incredibly slow to react to changes in the media landscape, and for every progressive consultant who’s spending time getting to grips with changing consumer behaviour, there’s another who’s five or ten years out of date. But such has been the pace of change during the last twelve months that I feel that PR as a discipline has reached tipping point. Conventional public relations is now heading for extinction.
Things started to evolve a few years ago when MySpace, Bebo and Facebook went mainstream. Blogging had already been causing shifts in focus since the early 2000s, but it was the advent of the social networks that changed the game for good. Suddenly print media consumption started to decrease as our clients’ ‘publics’ spent more and more time on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. And then came Twitter, and PR would never be the same again.
Broadcast media no longer breaks the news; Twitter breaks the news. And by the time the newspapers report it a day later, stories have moved on via microblogging. PR was always a fast moving industry, but the speed at which it now has to operate is incredible. In the face of this pace, the declining influence of print media and new consumer behaviours, traditional public relations is starting to look completely redundant. And with it, the agencies, MDs and consultants who’ve been paying lip service to social media and digital comms are starting to realise that they’re rapidly losing touch.
The Engagement Faction
Recently, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) announced that it wants to redefine ‘modern PR’. But I’m in total agreement with Danny Whatmough, who wrote on the Econsultancy blog in follow up that “there is immense fear in the PR industry about what it actually means to do PR these days. And I am constantly frustrated by how slow sections of the industry are to reinvent themselves. Apart from a few good agencies and practitioners doing great, pioneering work, there is too much burying of heads in the sand and hoping that the ‘same old’ will continue to be enough.” Spot on.
Personally, I’d love to see the back of those agencies and consultants who are now starting to panic about brand engagement. And it might not be long coming. Over the next year I can see PR becoming still further integrated with the marketing, SEO and customer service functions; more responsible for managing customer relationships and a wider communications role; significantly more integrated with mobile, web and digital marketing; and starting to finally answer the perpetual question of ROI.
Change is coming, and it’s coming fast. And if that means the death in 2012 of public relations as we know it in order for those doing good work to prosper, then so be it. Only the strong shall survive.
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