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Future of PR (Public Relations) in the business world

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When you live in the middle of the digital marketing and media revolution, it is sometimes easy to overlook the problems and changes that many industries are experiencing. Not long ago, Public Relations (PR) was considered the most cost-effective way of getting an organization’s name out to the masses.

In B2B world, there are a myriad of PR organizations, and they are fighting tooth and nail to retain business. I wonder, however, if they don’t see the change that is happening around them. Or perhaps, similar to print media, they see it, but are not quite sure what to do about it.

As I pondered this dilemma, a few possibilities occurred to me. I segmented my thinking in the three ways- short, medium and long term. I also realize that painting in broad strokes affords me liberties that are not true in business. Oh, the beauty of blogging!

The goal of public relations has a great deal of value

I strongly believe that the goal of public relations has a great deal of value. It is not the value proposition that needs to change, but rather the mechanism/tactics through which it is delivered. Therefore, in the short term, the tactics employed by a classic PR agency must evolve to embrace and leverage social media elements. If you consider the capabilities being offered by many PR agencies today, they still tout old school capabilities like press releases, media tours, messaging, highlighting executives, by-lines etc.

These are all well and good, but how many of us read a press release? And if I wanted to learn about an executive, I expect to hear what that person has to say on YouTube or perhaps read it on their blog. A PR agency does not have to change the overall strategy, It simply has to incorporate these social media elements and tactics.

In the medium term, there may be opportunities for intersection of PR and digital marketing. To this point, digital marketing has been focused around traditional marketing through digital media. The skills and approach that PR experts bring to the table might be key to understand what drives people to organically and virally consume content.

Communication strategy has not been the strong suit of digital agencies, but by virtue of being a rapidly evolving space, it may be time for the digital team to drive this strategy. In other words, leverage the experience, approach and thinking that is the corner stone of PR , but apply it to the digital medium and realize that the sum of these parts will be greater than the whole (i.e. PR + digital agency = future)

The long term approach is far more radical

It is anyone’s guess as to where the quickly changing environment will settle. The good people in the print media are having one summit after another to morph their operational and profit models to return to viable businesses. These media outlets have been the main stay of PR – not to mention the bane of their existence.

My belief is that the trade of PR relations will begin to focus on experts and consumers. The middle ground of journalists and print publications as we know it will seize to exist. They will be replaced by centers of interest (i.e., think communities or groups), who create and maintain their own ecosystem content creation, commerce, reviews, communities – specific to that interest. This would not only impacts PR, but digital marketing and business in general.

There is a future for PR

There is a future for PR, but it is irrevocably coupled with the digital medium and digital marketing. The scary consideration is that these PR agencies must act now so that they do not face the same predicament as the print industry.