Geeks Rule

Greg Miller opened the panel discussion before a packed and overheated room of PR execs gathered for the Bulldog-sponsored 2007 PR Agency Summit at the Williams Club in NYC.

He ran through some Google-centric slides, with a warning to the attendees to pay attention to the search, advertising, intelligence-gathering monopoly…or perish.

He finished, looked over at me; I turned to Rubel who gave me the “be my guest” look. I took the podium with my double-spaced musings on the yin yang of the modern PR world.

Sure we need to be on top of all the social media tools and networks that drive out clients’ reputations, let alone their business successes and failures. On the other hand, I have a hunch that an embroiled CEO would rather be in the trenches with a seasoned PR exec with good instincts than one who knows how to set up a Twitter account.

What’s more: clients still clamor and pay big bucks for media results, especially that good old-fashioned ink and airtime. (Question: why don’t advertisers measure their success based on the appearance of the ad they created?) PR people have it so easy…for the time being.

It matters little to today’s typical practitioner that the MSM’s ability to spur action has diminished and will continue to do so. Clients still pine for The Times, Business Week and NBC “Today.” Of course stories in those outlets become digital fodder for the blogs and other digital domains, hence the claim that social media is squarely in the driver’s seat is spurious.

Still, the fact remains: the masses are migrating online and have the power to seek and consume whatever content they want…when, where and how they want it. Growing, and making more discoverable, a client’s online footprint will eventually overwhelm traditional media coverage in terms of building brand reputations, selling products or enhancing stock price. Reality notwithstanding, times are flush for traditional publicity shops, and will be so for the foreseeable future.

BTW Mr. Rubel did not take the podium. From his place at the dais he steadfastly held his ground that command-and-control is dead and geeks shall rule. He also said that this is our industry’s moment to shine and extolled the audience: Carpe Diem! Our 45-minute session ended. A group of agency HR directors took our places.

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