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You CAN teach a PR new tricks

November 29th, 2007 by Lloyd Gofton

The PR industry has taken another bashing over the past couple of days for failing to embrace and understand social media as they should. If you’ve missed out on the conversations, it’s worth reading Will McInnes’ post “World has changed: PR agencies haven’t“, and Antony Mayfield’s follow-up post “Can PR evolve quickly enough?”.

Although Will makes the very valid point that “PR will NOT die at an industry level”, he insinuates that most PRs are in danger of being usurped by other agencies or disciplines, who have a better understanding of social networks.

And this is where I strongly beg to differ.

Expert PR thinking will always be at the strategic heart of any ‘PR’ campaign, and so long as we are always focused on being up-to-date in our approach and techniques, we will never be pushed out. The definition of ‘PR’ is on the very cusp of being radically overhauled, but our expertise and understanding of the media will never become redundant.

I am the first to admit that many PR agencies are taking too long over adapting and embracing the media climate that’s evolving so rapidly, but they shouldn’t feel bullied into having to becoming social media experts and having all the answers to hand. Their current PR expertise will be the only foundations and knowledge that they need to build on.

A great analogy to reference at this point is the publishing industry’s evolution from print to online. Ten years ago I got my first job at Ziff Davis, which coincided with the launch of its first two internet divisions – Gamespot and ZDNet. These websites were set up by traditional publishers and run by print journalists and editors – none had any prior knowledge of the Internet. To look back now it’s easy to see that we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but we believed in the Internet and knew it was the right thing to be doing, and so just went for it! I don’t need to tell you how successful ZDNet and Gamespot are today.

My point is that we didn’t waste our time debating about how we should embrace the Internet, and who was best placed to succeed at it, or how we’d all lose our professions if we didn’t…we just did it, and learnt as we went along. As a result I’ve now been working in the digital industry for the whole of my career – I owe a lot to t’Internet!

So at the end of the day, us PRs are still the best people to do the job!

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2 Responses to “You CAN teach a PR new tricks”

  1. Antony Mayfield Says:

    There is certainly plenty to be said for just doing it.

  2. Will McInnes Says:

    Hey Wendy, thanks for joining in.

    I’m afraid I don’t agree at all with the tone of your post.

    Yes I do ‘insinuate’ (evil, eh) that PR agencies are currently being usurped – PR people at the NMK event agreed with me that the simple fact is that non-PR agencies are eating the PR agency pie. SEO agencies, digital advertising and planning agencies, for example. Fact, as David Brent might say.

    And I don’t suggest that PR peeps should be ‘bullied into having to becoming social media experts and having all the answers to hand.’ I suggest that they ‘evolve their current forms’ and hire in people with great complementary skills and experiences to bolster areas like the analysis of data.

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