Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Future of PR

Whatever the future of public relations may be, it's not going to look like the past. In a survey of 401 corporate communicators by Ragan Communications and PollStream, only 49% said that press releases "are as useful as ever." One-third agreed that press releases are "a necessary evil that won’t go away soon."

So is the press release dead? According to Larry Weber, head of the W2 Group and author of Sticks & Stones, "I claim--not without a certain amount of opposition from my colleagues--that companies don't need press releases any more." Looking at the future of PR, he observes: "It's the craft of PR that is changing as the technology changes."

Weber emphasizes that one-way, static, corporate-controlled communication (like a press release) is not very effective in today's never-ending 24/7 global news cycle. Instead, he argues for harnessing social media and other always-on technology to listen to and engage audiences in two-way dialogue.

A recent Ad Age article notes that more companies are, in fact, side-stepping journalists to engage directly with consumers. The article quotes Sam Lucas of WPP's Burson-Marsteller: "The traditional one-way media model has definitely had its day. So agencies are talking to clients about these engagement models much more."

In other words, the future of PR is engagement.

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