I attended the Girls in Tech / Horn Group event that examined the notion of whether social media tools are killing PR. The event was in part to address the ongoing backchannel blogger chatter, which is essentially asserting that PR is dying on the vine. Kudos to the Horn Group and Girls in Tech for taking the opportunity to move beyond the negative bickering and look forward to the role that social media tools are having and how PR must harness them. I agree with the stand that Sabrina Horn took in noting that, no, PR is far from dying and the industry is, in fact, on the cusp of being reborn. In other words, there is opportunity on the horizon for those agencies that choose to transform for the future. The panelists were fantastic, each bringing a different and highly relevant perspective: Sam Whitmore of Media Survey served as the moderator and did an excellent job of prodding the audience for feedback while trying to cover a number of areas and keep all participants on track. Susan Etlinger, from the agency-side, Jeremiah Owyang, provided the analyst and blogger perspective, and BoomTown’s Kara Swisher lent perspective from her traditional media experience. Unfortunately, the 90 minutes didn’t afford the time to really dig down into how different social tools are enhancing PR or could be integrated more successfully. Nevertheless, the exchange was positive and fruitful, providing some good take-aways. Kara Swisher was vastly entertaining and provided a dose of reality related to the drama and antics some bloggers are exhibiting.
A few folks from the crowd provided a client perspective, noting that they want their agencies to be more expert at product marketing and SEO and web analytics. Jeremiah was spot on in his assessment that today the PR industry has to build out core competencies in SEO, web analytics, product marketing, viral marketing and beyond in order to be able to offer a new brand of PR services and expertise to clients; This new brand of PR is one that will blend core practices of traditional PR with online marketing -- while harnessing existing and future tools that disseminate information faster and farther. There are indeed new revenue streams to be realized here for PR firms. PR is at a crossroads in its need to evolve and become savvy in online advertising and other marketing competencies so that we can help clients navigate how they can most effectively apply their marketing efforts and dollars to drive company revenues.
Like the auto industry’s need to retool their manufacturing plants, now is the time for the PR industry to also retool. Future core services that we begin to offer clients need to be creative and closely align with how to leverage the expanding communication channels and the different avenues in which content and services and conversations are being disseminated, shared, and consumed.