Some likely changes to the PR industry!
I started this post as ‘the Future of PR companies’ but it was too broad and looked like an enormous post so I have distilled to some observations.
The public relations industry is posed to change enormously and at the same time set to remain the same. Let me explain. Changes in social media (and all the new skills it involves), a balancing of focus away from traditional media and all the new services mean a very welcome change in what PR companies do. Much of the adoption will come from bottom up pressure and new entrants bringing new ‘native’ and purer online skills. However the success of PR into the future is not only dependent on mastering new platforms but rather utilising and adapting the central communications and messaging skills. The innate gut feel of what is a good story, understanding the temperature of the moment, know what to say and when to say it and having ones finger on the pulse takes a long time to build up. Largely this life time skill set can be limited by constricted outlets ie just dealing with traditional media.
So how will the emergence of new media change what future PR companies look like and how they work. Some areas where i think we will see change include:
Collaboration between the industry is already growing through platforms such as Plaxo and Linked In. Rapidly formed collaborative groups formed PR groups on Facebook, Linked In, Ning show a willingness to share that I have only previously witnessed with close colleagues in the past. As people develop specialist skills this could easily evolve into PR practitioners utilising the collective skills to work on client projects. This will be slow to happen with larger agencies but more likely with smaller niche players. e.g. some looking to develop a Linked In strategy could utilised Krisna De or Social Networking could utilise Conor Lynch. From a clients perspective the experience would be project managed to appear as one.
Physical location is already reducing in importance in PR. City Centre offices were alway the preferred location for a variety of historical reasons. This included being close to media outlets. The need for this diminished with the introduction of email. Building on the collaborative theme PR practitioners could be based anywhere in the country with good broadband connections. As the future PR practitioner will not be fully focused on national media and could be focused on social media, for example, then location is less important.
3. Skills Sets
Apart from the central communications skills from writing, developing messages etc a deeper computer literacy will be needed. Consider first how the media is likely to change to help illustrate this. Most traditional media have a website, most have blogs, some have started to incorporate PodCasting and some have Video Casting. PR should be able to deliver content in these forms which means need hardware and software skills namely audio and video recorders and the related editing software from audacity to audition to premier pro. Yes this can be outsourced but these skills are not just going to be needed for media relations. Most social media demand multimedia content from videos, pictures to podcast material. Turn around is important in having these skills. If you organise a press conference and are uploading to YouTube, blog, Facebook etc then you will need to be able to do some basic edits and get it up fast for it to be relevant. The era of corporate video costing many thousands of euro and taking months to develop has moved to shorter, faster, less higher quality (which will probably not be noticed on web platforms) but higher number of interactions. One size no longer fits all.
3. Blogger Relations
There are load of guides to blogger relations from how to guides to codes of practice. PR has received bad press to date here because people treat it the same way as bad traditional media relations. Mainly this covers the write once and send to all practice. Not good in traditional media relations but worse in blogger relations. So what is the impact. PR agencies work on a time based model. Clients buy x amount of time at set rates. The price of this service has largely remained static as PR companies got faster at syndicating press releases due to email and better word processors. Problem is that blogger relations takes time. Individual pitching, understanding the individual blog focus and the blogger themselves, commenting over time, tracking through RSS feeds, researching them through the various methods Damien Mulley mentions all takes time. To short circut this some PR companies just added blogger email addresses to their BCC lists with poor reputation results. The end result is that as blogger and journalists reach parity in terms of influence that PR may become more expensive.
There are many more examples of how the future PR will look from Online Reputation Management to influencing social network but will hold for another post.