You’re familiar with the SWOT Analysis? It’s a way to think about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of your company or project. It’s often used in message development as well.
Given the high-flux state of the Public Relations industry nowadays, I thought it might be wise to do a little self-reflection, SWOT-style. Please note that in consideration of my readers’ need to “snack” on media, this is not going to be a full-blown analysis. These are my top-level thoughts only.
STRENGTHS – PR, done correctly, is custom-built for the Social Media era. My simplified definition of “PR” would suggest that it’s all about developing relationships that lead to positive, public proclamations by influencers and consumers. PR is good at telling the truth in a way that is palatable to appropriate audiences.
Whereas Advertising is about the big interruption, PR is about the gracious reduction: PR focuses on synthesizing a big message in a way that is both brief and of distinct value to every individual it reaches.
WEAKNESSES – I’ve been talking about this forever, but the single biggest weakness of PR in the Social Media age is related to scale. As I noted back in June 2006, “[How can] PR practitioners possibly find the time & energy to create, monitor and nurture the hundreds of relationships that might (or might not) aid their clients?”
This is an unyielding structural weakness. No firm can afford to hire enough people to do a diligent job of nurturing relationships with the thousands of content creators whose opinions might impact any one of their scores of clients. As much as PR agencies invest in training and monitoring and technology and good practices, they will still always be forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to overlook their intermittent foul-ups.
OPPORTUNITIES – Depending on whom you ask, Social Media is either the end of PR or its biggest opportunity. As an unapologetic optimist, I’m in the latter camp. For the first time in Marketing’s history, the “sizzle” is less important than the steak. PR sells steak. PR not only has a unique opportunity to step into the light and interact directly with consumers, but in so doing is gaining the authority to guide the overall corporate communications approach.
Tactically, PR has an unprecedented chance to lead on the content creation side, as well. Used to be press kits and releases were the sum of our effort. Today we can help devise blogging strategy; produce podcasts and vlogs; participate openly via microblogging platforms like Seesmic, Utterz, Twitter, etc. In addition, in part via its content creation experiences, PR is also gaining a stronger hand in SEO approaches (and we all know Search is king).
Crisis Communications – often regarded as a strength – is also an even bigger opportunity nowadays. Because the mainstream media now closely monitor the blogosphere, memestorms are fraught with ever more risk – they require rapid response; and PR is adept at planning for crises. We can pull-the-trigger on a pre-approved response strategy within minutes of identifying the challenge.
THREATS – PR’s biggest threat is a lack of adaptation to the big changes wrought by the world’s biggest game of smallball. The storied firms that deserve much credit for vaulting the PR industry to prominence (and even some respectability) are now scrambling to do adjust to a “new reality” that’s overturned the apple cart in just 2 years’ time.
Those firms that continue to operate behind closed doors are closed-off to this opportunity. Those firms that try to falsely exploit this opportunity will be closed off.
Another threat is the perennial question of Measurement. This is not a threat because PR does not add value; it’s a threat because we (still) do not have a consistent answer as an industry. (And we probably never will, given the varied objectives of our clients.)
Again, these are just top-level thoughts (here are some more). What have I missed?
Posted on: June 2, 2008 at 9:12 pm By Todd Defren