Sally Falkow reports some indicators from a recent presentation by Katie Paine to illustrate that the world of PR “is changing forever.” I can see how these are pointers to a changing world – but believe these indicate a need for more “traditional” PR skills. Let’s consider the “indicators” in more detail:
People are spending more time on Facebook than email: This may apply to some people – but that does not make Facebook an appropriate means of communication for PR practitioners. Unless journalists are willing for you to engage in “business” discussions, or you have an existing relationship, they won’t welcome your “friendship”. Neither will relevant groups necessarily accept PR in “the conversation”. Starting groups for PR purposes needs care – it can be done – as the poppy appeal showed, but it isn’t an easy option. Conclusion: social networking requires the same people skills that have always been the hallmark of good PR.
Deadlines don’t exist anymore – it’s a 24 hour news cycle. This doesn’t mean there are no deadlines – just that responses are expected from PR practitioners ever more promptly. Again, good PR practitioners have always recognised the need for responding quickly.
You don’t need the media to get your messages out. Maybe not, but without mediators (agency), will anyone hear the message? Of course PR practitioners need to enable people to “pull” our messages directly – but we still need to “push”, including using relevant mediated channels if we are to be heard.
It’s possible to create your own podcast or video for just a few hundred dollars and reach more people than you would with mainstream media. Possible, yes – but realistically, it is more likely that you will reach more people with a phone-in on a local radio show on a Wednesday morning than you will get to download most podcasts or videos – especially if the production quality is poor.
Companies like P & G are learning to let go control and co create marketing material with customers – isn’t this simply the latest marketing approach to take advantage of “user generated content”? Companies have always used market research to get customer feedback, even on marketing material (haven’t you heard of advertising testing?) It may now be done more publicly, but they know most of what is produced by customers is likely to be rubbish. No-one is letting go of control here – least of all those with brands as valuable to the bottom line as P&G.
People believe what’s in Wikipedia and it gets page one position in Google for practically any search term – yes, Wikipedia may be an important channel for organisations – and PR practitioners should ensure accuracy in any relevant entries. But the public are also increasingly aware that Wikipedia isn’t perfect and also that some PR practitioners have sought to manipulate entries.
Google has replaced dictionaries, the thesaurus, encylopedias and yellow pages – it’s become much more than a search tool – like with Wikipedia, this just means people have an easy access to information. Search engine optimisation is important, but ensuring good content is readily available is another classic PR skill.
Measurement is easy – in a digital wolrd you (sic) can track most anything. However, intelligence remains rare. Numbers and data doesn’t equal insight – which is what PR practitioners most require. I believe online offers huge opportunities for increased understanding, but a lot of so called “measurement” is unreliable and doesn’t necessarily improve or inform practice. Let’s not confuse data with effective measurement.
Size no longer matters – it’s who you reach, not how many. Agreed, but hasn’t that always been the case? PR practitioners haven’t always practised “spam” – when there were real costs involved in reaching people (time and postage for example), then a more informed, focused, and intelligent approach was standard in the PR profession.
Screaming at your audience no longer works. You have to start listening. Screaming at someone has never worked – true PR professionals have always listened to the public, the media and understood the need to engage rather than talk at others.
Effective PR communications has never been about taking a mass media, one way approach. Sally claims that “Markets are conversations. The new media landscape is littered with campaigns that used old PR and marketing methods and failed.”
Unless we recognise the same core skills that have always underpinned effective practice are as required today as ever, the new media landscape will continue to be littered with new PR and marketing methods that fail.
Let’s remember that markets involve transactional and communal exchange – in the “old PR and marketing” world, this always has involved conversations.
[Thanks to Judy Gombita for the link]