Tech PRose

February 8, 2011

21st Century PR Firm?

Filed under: B2B,Dennis Collins,Marketing & Public Relations — techimage @ 9:55 am

When something truly different comes along, it is typically compared to the current status quo – i.e., the conventional wisdom.  Back in the early 1980’s I was involved in launching many of the first personal computers (think Radio  Shack, Commodore, Atari , Apple).  The conventional wisdom was to say that these devices could balance your checkbook (replacing your calculator) or function like a typewriter, only better.  Back then, I often heard people deride PCs as overpriced toys that were only doing what could be done with a paper, pen or slide rule.  They were missing the point, but it bears repeating in this day and age – What’s important to note is not the Shiny Object, it’s the Trend.  And we can’t ignore trends just because we don’t agree with them or don’t like them – they exist independent of our wishes.

The dramatic rise of blogging along with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn has brought many to declare the end of the print publishing industry.  Magazine subscriptions are down, and online versions are struggling.  Publishers look to the music industry’s meltdown as a glimpse of their future, and are trying to figure out how to stop it.  Meanwhile, the film and video industry is watching both and worrying that their time is next.

So in the hopes of finding the middle ground, I raise this observation.  Social media is here to stay – The Trend is immediacy, transparency and interactive dialog among people, combining facts with opinions more freely than ever.  In a business setting, this means the audience can determine the appropriate level of each for their own comfort when making a buying decision.  Like it or not, it is what it is.  So, how we leverage this to our advantage should be the key issue, not which tool to use. The one thing I can say with utmost confidence is that focusing on the Shiny Object is the wrong approach.  Remember AOL, CompuServe and Netscape?  They are sideline memories today – yet they were instrumental in building the foundation for today’s Internet and were touted as the next generation of business leaders in their (short) time.

As members of a co-dependent industry to all of this, marketing communications professionals are also wary.  There is much debate about the efficacy of online or offline advertising and the dwindling base of editors that make up PR’s output.  And the issues around social media continue to clutter our email inboxes:  Should corporations have Facebook profiles? What about blogging and tweeting? Do I really have to keep track of it all?

Now that we’re well into this century, it’s time to reflect on how technology has really changed marketing communications.  I feel that the 21st Century PR firm needs to adapt to the new channels of open communication if it is to remain relevant.  Providing value to clients is always the primary goal, but the value metrics are shifting. We’ve always been focused on connecting a client with an influencer who represents an audience.  Nothing has changed except the tools – we have a wider pool of influencers to address through more channels than ever.  That’s good news!  But it means that the role we play, the value we provide, and the way we get compensated are in a state of flux.  I have some thoughts as to how to address it, which I will elaborate on later.  But I’d like to hear from others, in agencies and corporations.

What are you doing to modify your value proposition?

What are you being asked to do by your bosses/clients?

Has your daily routine shifted – and are you happy with it?

Let me hear your thoughts.

— by Dennis Collins


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