Tom Foremski, at Silicon Valley Watcher, poses some really interesting questions about the way traditional PR agencies are tackling the interactive Web. In a nutshell, Foremski says they're not.
With all the disruption that is going on in the mainstream media industry, where is the disruption in the mainstream public relations industry? PR companies and corporate communications teams are still going about their business in the same way, and seem to be thriving.
Foremski's writes that the role of traditional PR firms will shrink as the importance of reaching mainstream media outlets shrinks. In other words, if it's no longer necessary to get exposure on all the TV networks--because blogs are touching customers directly--there's less need to hire a traditional PR agency. So far, Foremski says companies are still trying to reach mainstream media, and thus, are still using PR firms to get those mentions. Eventually, he theorizes that companies will move away from that, leaving PR firms high and dry.
I'm with Foremski in this sense: a lot of PR folks just don't seem to "get it" yet. I attended a panel discussion with about 250 PR people in St. Louis recently, all about blogs, podcasts, wikis and other interactive Web tools. After sitting through some pretty good stuff about how the audience now controls the message, some people were asking questions like, "But how do we keep control of our message?" There's just a complete disconnect.
Have PR firms been trained for so long in "message control" that they're unable to see a different way of doing things? If so, they're in trouble. The PR people who understand that this is not about "message control" anymore are a step ahead, and they'll be the leaders in "new" PR.
Thanks, Amy Gahran.