I’ve been meaning to comment on WSJ scribe Wendy Bounds’ piece from a couple of days ago on the changing face of public relations. It’s a must-read for those grappling with some of the new digital tools at our disposal, let alone the question of whether traditional media relations is quickly becoming an outmoded practice.
In fact, I’m moderating a panel next week on the 100th anniversary of the news release (who knew?) where we’ll likely debate the relevancy of the century-old communication tool.
In answer to the question on the vitality of traditional media relations, one would only have to look at the myriad firms that continue to flourish by courting mainstream media with client story pitches. As long as there are journalists who derive story ideas from the PR channel and there are clients who pay for this service (just consider the long tail), the practice will survive.
But don’t be fooled. Increasingly, we will see a paradigm shift toward using online word of mouth techniques to drive awareness, buzz, and…mainstream media coverage. As Ms. Bounds notes:
“Recognizing the swing, a new breed of public-relations specialists is emerging to help time-pressed small-business owners navigate the options (for a price, of course).”
Can a standard news release sent only to mainstream media build awareness? Sure. Can digitally optimized and RSS-enabled communications alone drive awareness? Sure. PR pros need to recognize that these different approaches are not mutually exclusive. It’s how they’re used in tandem that will produce the greatest ROI.
As Ms. Bounds observed in her piece, which was ostensibly written for small business owners, but have applications across the board:
“Still, new media options can actually help reach and pique the interest of the mainstream press, and the combined push on both fronts can garner a small business unprecedented levels of attention.”
Of course this is only possible if one takes the time to acquaint oneself with weblogs, SEO/SEM, social media, del.icio.us, AdWords, RSS, flickr, wikis, digital video, digg, YouTube, conversation mining, virtual reality, the geospatial web, huh? Unfortunately, many of our brethren still resist.
(That’s PR industry pioneer Ivy Lee pictured above.)