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

The New Rules In PR - The Old Model Is Dead

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 10, 2009

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For several years I've warned the PR agencies that fundamental changes have occurred in their world just as they have in the media world.

I said it all reminded me of the cartoon character Wily E. Coyote, who is chasing the Road Runner. Everything is fine until he looks down and sees he has run out of road and there is nothing between him and the distant canyon floor.

For the past few years the PR agency world didn't know it had run out of road because it was able to charge for its traditional PR activities and also to charge extra for its "social media" expertise too. Times were great, money was pouring in, and everyone was hiring.

Now the road has run out in traditional PR for many, and the canyon floor is a long way down. These days, I can't tell you how many people from large PR agencies have been telling me "the old model is dead."

Here are a few notes from my conversations:

- There will still be a need for large agencies but not for the vast majority of companies.

- The old way of charging a monthly retainer is going away, it is moving to a project by project model.

- Why do PR agencies bring in their "social media experts?" Shouldn't they all be social media experts by now? Why make the distinction.

- PR needs to focus on outcomes, and not outputs. Outputs are just ways to charge for time spent, outcomes is where the value is.

- So what that you emailed 50 journalists? You are charging for outputs and not outcomes.

- Charging by the hour is going to go away, charging by the project, by activity, is the future.

- PR needs to say "No" to clients more often, otherwise they are not using their expertise, or it shows that they have none.

- Is it PR, marketing, or advertising? Which department pays for PR? You should compete with the best ideas getting funding.

- There is no such thing as "social media" it is all media and you should have expertise in all of it.

- Who puts out press releases through the newswires these days? Or puts out press releases anyway? You should be contacting journalists and others directly.

- PR firms need to figure out how to drive traffic to news stories and to client web sites. They don't know how.

- Too many people are managing others rather than doing the work that needs to be done.

- I can charge half the agency rates and the get the work done in half the time.

. . .

In the next couple of weeks I'll be looking at some of the changes in the world of PR. I'm particularly interested in the extent of "social media" expertise among the PR agencies.

"Social media is the tip of the spear" when it comes to new business, says Todd Defren, principal at Shift Communications.

I'll be looking to see who in the agencies is active in blogging, Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, etc. Is it the senior people or is it junior staff? How often do they update, how much traffic do they get? What's the quality of their content?

My position is: you've got to be in it to know it. Let's see who knows it.

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Let me know how things have changed from your perspective: Tom at Foremski.com.  I also publish guest posts.

Please see:

Can You Advise Clients On Social Media If You Aren't On Facebook Or Twitter?

I Don't Want A Social Media Relationship With My Hard Drive

The Future Of PR When Every Company Is Now A Media Company...

Human Botnets And Twitnets: Procter And Gamble Social Media Charity Experiment Leaves Sour, Soapy Taste

Microsoft's ROI on Robert Scoble - the disruption of PR by blogging

Chicken or Rooster? Engaging in online debates . . .

Raining on the PR industry's parade...

Wily E Coyote: Traditional PR is Running on Thin Air

Disruption in mainstream media but where is the disruption in the mainstream PR industry?


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