Over the past year, I have seen two major trends in PR. Many, too many, good and experienced people have been laid off. We like to think experience is valued, but agencies and corporations are saying experience is too expensive. Looking at who has been laid off in PR, and not been rehired, makes you realize the industry is undergoing a transformation. Part of the transformation involves the PR industry trying stress its value a digital world.
Like it or not, the PR model that has served us for the past 10 years is broken. Thanks to Al Gore and the Internet three things have smashed the model:
- Companies can get the word out on their products via their own Web sites;
- There are too few media outlets to pitch;
- Social Media makes it easy to engage directly with the consumer.
Let's face it, search and company Web sites have reduced the need for advertising. I am not telling you anything new when I say that if you want to buy a new computer, you don't run down to the magazine shop and pick up three or four magazines on computers. Instead, you'd read them online for free, visit CNET or consumer reports online, fish around Amazon, look for discounts on the computer maker's Web sites, and well, you get the picture. You can do an awful lot of research without leaving home or spending a dime on publications.
Companies need PR less if a buyer can pull information about a product when she wants it, as opposed to having information pushed at the consumer when she's just glancing at the headlines looking to find out how many schools closed early even though the predicted blizzard never materialized.
Conclusion: you don't need PR as much as you once did. I am not sure PR people understand that, or more accurately want to admit there is a problem. It's always been hard to measure PR. Now, companies are finding it hard to justify PR. The industry's recent desire for self-promotion is a way to address this conclusion. I'm not sure it will work.
To be honest, PR's image problem and its apparent need for self promotion requires a post of its own where we can explore the issue at length. Look for it on this same Bat Station.