Monday, February 16, 2009

PR's Evolving Role

I love Twitter.  I follow so many interesting PR Pros, Web/Graphic Designers, Public Affairs Officers, Social Media Gurus, Journalists, Political Strategists and Goverati types that use and love all different types of communication methods.  What strikes me as odd is that there seems to be a reoccurring topic that is the subject of blog and twitter posts: What PR is and what is isn't.

Don't get me wrong, anyone who's read anything on this blog knows that I have my views too. But lately, it seems the definition of PR is getting narrower - a definition that consists of pure media relations/outreach, writing of thought leadership pieces, market and competitive research, case studies and the occasional trade show or event planning support. 

I have said and believe that media relations will always be the staple of public relations (it's essentially the bread and butter of any agency with a PR department), but what I am consistently amazed at and wonder about is why PR is talked about as separate from the emerging social media and digital strategy methods that companies are demanding.  Is it because the perception is that many PR Pros lack the necessary skills to effectively understand, recommend and implement digital and social media strategies to clients?  Is it because traditional forms of the media (print and arguably some broadcast) are dying and therefore traditional PR tactics are too? Have we as an industry self-segmented (segregated) itself from the digital and social changes that have taken place in today's media? Or is the rise of new media tactics/strategy a market challenge to the traditional PR business practice and model?

Obviously it's probably a combination of these things plus many more aspects I failed to identify. In an industry where niches and specialization are praised for experience and the building of sustainable relationships (think about agencies specific practice units e.g. Health Care, Technology, Corporate, etc.), how are digital and social media strategies being integrated into current PR business models? Moreover, what input or influence do PR practitioners have on the planning, implementation, measurement and promotion of these strategies?

I increasingly read case studies where the lines between a good marketing and PR campaign are often blurred (and rightly so) because of the different channels used to execute the strategy. My sense is good communication campaigns are becoming a lot like the model used (NOT LIKE) multichannel marketing. It takes more than one media vehicle to communicate to a target audience.

What's your take on the ever evolving definition of PR? What skills and abilities do PR Pros need in today's market? Moreover, what role should PR Pros play in the recommendation and execution of digital and social media strategy?

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