Evolution: Cautiously Ushering in the Era of PR 1.5

“History won’t be kind to PR 2.0, i.e. a moment in time when infatuation with tools replaced understanding of communications.”

Amanda Chapel via Twitter

In part I agree with Ms. Chapel’s cynicism of PR 2.0, particularly as I look back on my career of over 13 years, and see how profoundly PR has changed. I also see the vast potential for these new resources.

That said, at this point, I don’t believe we have truly reached PR 2.0. Instead, I believe we are at more of a v1.5, as we determine how to effectively incorporate traditional methods with new tools (the Facebooks and Twitters of the world). Given the time to mature, and allowing that time for most of the Web narcissists to burn themselves out on self-congratulations and witty remarks reposted from Google searches, these platforms will undoubtedly be a boon for the PR profession.

Sarcasm aside, the days of big dollars for dot [bombs] are behind us, along with many of the fluffiest bits of marketing jargon that once seemed to sate the most tenacious of journalists. After all, how exciting was it to read about the hot new, VC-funded startup that was leveraging its next-generation, mission-critical capabilities to ensure ROI and fat wallets for its enterprising founders?! Never mind that we were selling companies that had no tangible product, service or revenue stream to speak of.

It is this PR guy’s opinion that while it was a glorious era for easily getting our clients in the news, it also hurt the profession in the long run. Many of us became the merchants of half-truth and once the money ran out, the media community-at-large realized it had been duped. 

Flash forward ten years, and the media landscape is almost unrecognizable.  With the bust came a huge attrition of positions affecting not only the opportunistic entrepreneurs, but also those in the journalist communities and, {gasp}, PR people. 

Some of those who were fortunate enough to take their spoils and get out before the fall, moved on to bigger and better things. But most of us are still here, working hard to bring credibility back to our roles while telling our clients’ stories in 140 characters or less.

To that point, one of the most profound changes for PR has been the incorporation of social media platforms. As traditional media merges with social media platforms, so too have the lines between PR and media blurred.  Therefore, it is now incumbent upon those in my profession to not only sell our clients’ stories, but create them in a candid, informative, and most of all, honest way.

All of that aside, PR is still largely about relationships, so regardless of the format, we still have to have a deep understanding of WHAT we are talking about, and to WHOM we should be speaking.  Leveraging social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook give us additional methods for reaching our clients’ customers (and target media), but they also strip away the buffer between our clients and the customer, and with it, our margin for errors in messaging. 

On the upside, we now have more power than ever to directly influence our audiences, and by not only embracing the new tools, but learning how to effectively leverage them, we can ensure a greater value delivered to our clients, and ultimately the long-term viability of the public relations role.