The Whole Enchilada

It’s no secret that the advent of social media, and its many incarnations, have redefined the PR practitioner’s traditional role and function.

It’s also no secret that the industry has ceded considerable creative and commercial control of the new tools to others such as specialty ad, media, marketing and branding boutiques and firms.

Which brand of marketing services firm will eventually own these new “tools of the trade?” Or more precisely, which “trade” are we taking about? The lines between ad/PR/direct/programming continue to blur.

This dynamic recently crystallized when Steve Rubel excitedly confided in me that his firm stands to reap considerable added revenue at the direct expense of advertising agencies. I’m not surprised. Advertisers are shifting their ad expenditures to the digital arena, and those firms perceived to have mojo in the space will benefit.

Still, most PR firms are still not perceived by marketers as having the DNA to crack the viral code like a, let’s say, Crispin Porter + Bogusky or the Jun Group.

So then, can the PR industry regain its footing to own the digital communications realm? And if not completely, which of the new tools naturally exploit the PR pro’s natural proficiencies such as clear and concise communications, a moral compass, instincts about public opinion, knowledge of message delivery mediums and channels, etc?

I raise this question after reading Kevin Maney’s piece today in USA Today that explores how wikis are being used successfully by the business enterprise. His story, pegged to Don Tapscott’s forthcoming book on the subject, gives examples of how certain companies have tapped the collective wisdom of the many to solve their business challenges. (Full disclosure: I rep the We Are Smarter Than Me collaborative publishing initiative cited in Maney’s piece.)

Would a company seeking to create a wiki as a means to exploit the public for its own business ends turn to a PR firm to make it happen? Should it? Geesh, isn’t the PR biz experiencing enough angst trying to understand and meld social media, corporate blogging, virtual worlds, SEM and SEO, SMA, digital video, podcasts…with traditional PR services that remain valid and valued?

I certainly appreciate the goal of building a bigger digital footprint for our clients, but let’s hope we don’t byte off more than we can chew. In other words, let’s focus on those service offerings for which our recognized core competencies and intrinsic expertise are directly indicated.

Update 12/29 – Business Week’s Jon Fine adds to the discussion of the blurring between marketing disciplines.