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Where is PR Going?

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Okay, I keep planning to do a big think piece – or really, a “what I think” piece – on where PR is going in 2006.

I have no answers, I don’t claim to have any answers, I’m just some kid in Phoenix that is blessed to look 10 years younger than I am, has a good ability to write, and can be sociable when needed – some not-too-bad traits for PR. For the piece, I even have a nice photo of Phil Gomes on tour for Edelman, thoughts on the so-called 25 percent and if PR is changing, and other stuff along those lines.

Heck, I even gave a quote to Ragan’s newsletter about predictions for 2006. More on those thoughts on a later date, but the not-so tongue-in-cheek part of the quote was cut, where I noted that those same divisions would just be swallowed into PR as a whole, when firms realize that they do not need to separate blogging outreach from mainstream public relations.

But, yesterday I wrote about Foremski and Rubel and their posts about the coming (or shortcomings) of PR. Both wonder what PR is going to be in the future, why it is growing. I just look at it this way: the mainstream media universe is shrinking, with more and more freelancers coming out from the cuts in the media. Those freelancers are only going to be only really known by PR professionals that have relationships that are not built via blogs nor email but from good old PR, with the phone and personal, high-touch communications and not high-tech. Many thanks to Al Golin, who brought up the importance of relationships and the over-reliance of high-tech in our interview. Every one in PR should re-read the bolded line, and think it over. And, also go read Richard Edelman’s fisking of the Foremski piece – as the leader of Edelman, Richard always has good points, and this is no exception.

And, yes at the same time the media universe is expanding with bloggers and podcasters and other consumer generated media (or whatever you want to call it). Those are going to take a gentle hand to work with, a gentle high-tech and high-touch feel that is going to be a new thing for PR. PR has never been about control (ha!! – if any PR person can tell me when they have had control with the media, I’ll buy them a burger), but has been about messaging. That’s what PR should always be about – access to the message, getting the message out.

With more and more companies launching, it is no surprise that PR is in demand because companies – after their DIY PR stage – they are going to need the professionals to lead the way. That’s PR firms. Now, I read the same article in the SFBT about the growth of PR firms in the Bay (btw, one wasn’t so new, but just a new name) and just yesterday I got a “sneak” peak into news from SHIFT Communications. They are now the new AOR for The Churchill Club, an organization that does harken back to the days of the dotcom era. To me, it was a nice strategy – they know I write about PR here, they pitched it with the press release (bad, but not as bad if it were an attachment), and they answered my questions on what they are going to be doing (PR, marketing – the whole of promoting the club, events, and booking speakers). Heck, they even blog so they seem to understand that universe, but when the profile says “principal of the best damn PR firm, period” and you don’t get the joking tone that you do from the FOX Sports show, it comes off as … odd.

But, all this talk of Churchill Clubs and growing PR firms and changing PR and Web 2.0 and Social Networks makes me wonder … is PR getting caught up in the same shit as it did in the dot-com era? Can PR firms push back on clients, and say “no, that’s stupid” or are we going to do the same goose steps with bad campaigns that bring in money? One of the greater benefits I have had with blogging is that I have an even better sense of what is and what is not … a story. And, I have no problem pushing back – can firms do the same thing, or are we going to see clients raped again?

That’s the real future question for PR: did we learn from the first time around, or is this bust going to make the last one look like a walk in the park?

Jeremy Pepper is the CEO and founder of POP! Public Relations, a public relations firm based in Arizona, USA.

He authors the popular Musings from POP! Public Relations blog which offers Jeremy’s opinions and views – on public relations, publicity and other things.

Where is PR Going?
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