For 99% of the history of the Public Relations industry, what good PR pros excelled at (and what they were known for) was exploiting SCARCITY.
Throughout the 20th century, and into the 21st, there were merely a few hundred publications, broadcast outlets and reporters who “counted,” when it came to getting a company’s message out to the masses. PR was a gatekeeper to those resources. PR pros could tout genuine relationships with those mass media channels and contacts, and/or could claim the hard-won experience of knowing “what would sell” to them.
With the rise of Social Media, what was scarce is now abundant.
Arguably, too abundant. For every mainstream news outlet there are a thousand relevant and legitimate news and op-ed blogs. For every mainstream lifestyle publication, there are five-thousand or more relevant and legitimate mom– and dadblogs, design blogs, shopping blogs, etc. For every mainstream journalist there are thousands upon thousands of relevant and legitimate influencers on Twitter.
The PR industry needed to convince itself and others that the relationship-building expertise (and let’s face it, consummate ass-kissery, when necessary) forged via the 20th century media model was appropriate to the task; that MANAGING ABUNDANCE was no more tricky than LEVERAGING SCARCITY.
Add to this earth-shaking muddle the fact that Social Media also invited Paid Content campaign creators (a.k.a. advertising folks) and Customer Service concerns. Then blend in the prospect of adding workaday employees to the outbound communications duty roster, guided (or not) by newly-drafted “community managers” who might not know a thing about PR (but whose efforts fundamentally impacted PR).
See how hairy this situation got? It’s still working itself out. It will take years.
Yet by and large the PR pros I talk to in 2012 are way more enthused, engaged, enlightened and fun than the PR pros I supped with circa 2000. They have been energized by the challenge; they have risen to it; it is literally revitalizing the industry. Times are good.
There were those who thought Social Media (and before that, AdWords, if you can believe it) would end this industry. Those doomsayers were right to suggest that PR needed a wake-up call (and they’d be right even today to suggest “not everyone gets it, yet”).
But it’s gratifying to know, even in these still-early days of transformative change, that PR pros won’t go the way of the buggy-whip manufacturers.
Posted on: March 21, 2012 at 9:01 am By Todd Defren