Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Changes in PR - Is Your PR Firm Changing Too?

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 16, 2007

Every company, large and small, needs to rise above the white noise of the mediasphere and get its message out--and collect the messages about it and it's space.

Now that we have these two-way media technologies such as blogs, wikis, and RSS, and the many hybrid media formats that they make possible, how do companies achieve their basic goals of boosting sales and boosting their brand perception?

It used to be done by hiring PR firms. These days there are many other ways of getting things done, there is a fundamental change in how PR will be done. I've been writing about such changes (and upsetting a few people.)

My premise is simple: traditional media is undergoing great change and so will traditional PR for very similar reasons--but change won't happen until pain is felt, as it is being felt in traditional media. A change is certainly coming and some firms will make it others won't.

Yet many in PR feel that they can have their cake and eat it. That they can continue to sell traditional PR services and new PR services. Clients won't continue to pay for both, the money will flow to what is most effective, and most cost effective.

The new media technologies are extremely disruptive technologies. And disruptive technologies disrupt business models.

Here are some excerpts from a just published report from
The Council of Public Relations Firms: (Hat tip to Sam Whitmore.)



. . .

Clients must find and engage the best partners with the best ideas, regardless of whether they are
public relations agencies or not.

Peter Debreceny, former vice president of corporate relations, Allstate Insurance Co., expressed concern for the profession, “as many more competitors step into the traditional agency PR space.” He thinks confusion about the roles and responsibilities of various marketing and communications providers is steadily increasing and adds: “I don’t like where the trends are going.”

. . .

As for future skills, social media must become part of the way public relations practitioners do business or
they will become obsolete.

. . .

Hybrid compensation models are likely to develop that are more closely tied to audience
engagement than hourly revenue.

. . .

Clients often serve as catalysts for revamping PR agencies’ business models. Says State Farm’s Fernandez:
“Things are changing, and we don’t have a mandate to buy PR from PR firms and ads from ad agencies.”
Thus, to become communications partners, public relations agencies must illuminate how they develop the
best ideas from all the media tools available.

. . .

Within the public relations industry, practitioners increasingly understand that the media communications
landscape has changed dramatically. A Council of Public Relations Firms’ survey in the 2006 third quarter found
that a majority of public relations agencies (52%) say they have run into advertising agencies or other
marketing providers that are pitching and/or delivering services today that they consider traditional PR services.

. . .

For public relations professionals, 2007 will be an important year to determine what path they take as an
industry from the critical crossroads they’re at today. Will agencies embrace social media and move to
incorporate its various forms into client communication strategies? Or will they allow outsiders to furnish
those services? It promises to be a very interesting period ahead.

Read the report here:

BTW I had no idea I was quoted in the report:

Sometimes, it’s helpful to consider the views of non-PR communicators.

Financial Times reporter Tom Foremski, who hosts the SiliconValleyWatcher blog, says
he’s often asked to recommend public relations agencies to companies and also how to choose public
relations agencies, especially ones that understand a bit about new media and, specifically, the blogosphere.

“Here is a key pointer:” he advises, “If you are looking for a PR company that understands something about
blogging, find out who in that organization blogs, and how long have they been blogging, and what is their
blog page rank and traffic. You will find that in many large PR agencies, it is their most junior staff that are
the in-house bloggers, and there lies the rub. PR companies that ‘get it’ have senior staff as bloggers, and
they blog regularly, and they have decent traffic, and they also use other types of new media such as wikis.”

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