The Future of PR Firms?

Just a quick thought or two before crashing for the night. (hopefully they make sense) For a while I’ve been pondering the future of public relations and advertising/marketing firms in this new media world. (Why wait until now to share this with y’all? What can I say, I’m shy.) While many people have been talking about the future of the mass media in this world, I don’t know how many people have pondered the other side of the coin. I was talking with Crosscut Communications‘ guru, Will Reichard, about this after the Social Media NM meetup last week and we bounced some ideas off of each other about the potential future for PR firms.  So up front I’d like to thank Will for letting me bend his ear and giving me some really good pointers.

In this New Media Age the majority of businesses need to not only be in business, but also be media outlets. While news outlets are shuttering, laying people off or switching to three days per week publishing schedules, businesses need to be able to present their own talking points/communication starters online, circumventing the mainstream media to a certain extent.

But what is the impact on PR firms? Those who are used to sending out press releases and newsletters, and creating plans based around getting more “earned media” from an ever shrinking news universe. Are they going to go out of business?

Of course not. There will still be a need for PR firms to work on getting “earned media” despite the shrinking newshole, but savvy PR firms will shift their focus. In my previous post I talked about PR professionals (working for organizations, I don’t think I made that clear) serving as diplomat-facilitator-community relations.  Communications firms should be on the cutting edge of new media, social networking and content creation. They should take over the role of teacher, leading their clients through the basics of new media/social media, and building social networks (whether on Facebook or Ning, or checking out what Pursuant is doing and trying to match that) and let their clients go on developing messages, creating content and developing outside evangelists.

This won’t lead to the clients dropping the firms, far from it. Clients will need these firms to develop online infrastructure and create/manage video pieces, podcasts and other new media projects for their clients. And there will be a big need for these services, as many companies, especially smaller companies, won’t have the facilities to make high quality video or audio podcasts, and won’t have the connections with regional or industry bloggers.

(Now’s probably a good time to point out that people working in PR firms should already be blogging and connecting with others in the industry their clients work in. Or at least monitoring the chatter.)

Just my two cents to mull over tonight as we drift off.  G’night y’all.

Author: Benson Hendrix

Benson Hendrix, APR has been called everything from a “social media zen warrior” to the ” ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper of Public Relations,” and from a “behind the scenes powerbroker,” to “the loudmouth PR love child of Henry Rollins and Anthony Bourdain,” but doesn’t really believe any of it (except maybe the “Rowdy” Roddy Piper part). Hendrix is the Social Media Manager for the University of New Mexico and loves helping organizations and people tell the stories that are important to them. He is also an adjunct social media instructor at the University of New Mexico, and the Social Media Strategist for TEDxABQ. In the few minutes a week he calls "spare time," he relaxes with his wife and chases his dream to be a better photographer.

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