I was somewhat downhearted this week to read that the UK PR industry is coming under question yet again for its backward approach to digital and social media. Maybe it’s because I work for an agency that’s forward-thinking when it comes to online PR, or perhaps it’s because I have a network of like-minded peers, but the fact that 34% of PR agencies don’t have a digital strategy and that, astoundingly, 6% don’t even think it’s relevant to their business, is mind-blowing.
What world do the MDs and CEOs of these companies live in? And what do they tell their clients when they ask about blogging or Facebook or LinkedIn? Do they still go down the ‘Twitter’s just people tweeting what they had for breakfast and is irrelevant’ route? Do they think Foursquare is the new country dancing craze? Or that Quora is edible mycoprotein?
Vikki Chowney from Reputation Online summed it up nicely, saying: “Although I’m an avid believer that you can’t be completely structured when it comes to new technologies…this doesn’t mean digital can be added to the ‘too hard to define at the moment’ pile.” I thought we were beyond this, I really did. And I thought the days when well-respected figures like Vikki were forced to question whether “the UK PR industry is roughly three years behind that of digital specialists when it comes to working with social media” were finally starting to fade into the past. But clearly not.
As Vikki goes on to point out, training budgets for digital fluency within PR agencies are small and “those with the skills required to lead and formalise a digital strategy within PR agencies are few and far between”. The result of this potent combination? The pool of true senior digital PR talent is small and will only become smaller.
So I’m coming round to an opinion about those PR agencies that are holding the industry back that is, admittedly, both unconstructive and defeatist: sod them! Let them die an ignorant death, and the sooner, the better. Leave those of us who don’t live in 1995 and who actually understand changing consumer behaviours and decision making habits to do what we do best without dragging our reputation through the mud. If you’re one of them (although clearly you’re not as you don’t understand or value blogs), the agency I work for grew over 40% in 2010. What about yours?
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