The Hybrid Professional

I’m leaving for Washington next week to speak at the Vocus User’s Conference.  My topic is “PR Past to Social Media Power.”  Looking back, as I traveled down my own PR 2.0 path, I heard many people say that PR was dead. I believe PR is very much alive.  We’re changing, growing and experiencing an awakening or a rebirth in our industry. Despite the stereotypes about our work being PR spin and hype, if it wasn’t for a strong PR past, which gives us a solid foundation in strategic communications and relationship building with the public, there would be no opportunity for “social media power” to propel us forward today. From our ability to plan and execute strategic communications to our measurement practices and accountability, PR has a gained big stake in social media.  Notice, I didn’t say we own it, because we all know that no one can own social media.

My presentation will delve into the role PR will play in social media and identify the hybrid PR professional; the individual who exhibits social media power.  I’ll touch upon the communications professional who understands and practices strategic PR, who demonstrates the necessary hybrid characteristics and the PR person who assumes new roles and responsibilities willingly, as social media becomes a greater part of brand communication.  The hybrid is not a new concept but carries a few different meanings.

For me, the hybrid professional is rooted or educated in traditional PR (for example, skilled in traditional media) and trained in social media.  It’s still our jobs to connect with the media no matter where they report their stories, print, broadcast, online or on their blogs.  We’re not abandoning our media relations work in magazines, trade journals, TV and radio.  As long as our consumers are there reading or viewing, brands need to be there too.  However, we are exploring and building communities in new territories to connect with media turned bloggers and new influencers, as well as our customers directly. Whether it’s Facebook or foursquare, we need to know the rules of engagement with our stakeholders in these web communities.

The hybrid PR professional is also the strategic communicator that must have a seat at the strategy table.  This individual works closely with other marketing disciplines including the digital creative group, the brand team and marketing/advertising.  I remember attending a conference a year ago when a very smart educator questioned me about why I thought PR should be more integrated with other marketing disciplines.  She told me that PR is in a class by itself.  Yes, it is and we will always stand out as strategic communicators and reputation managers.  We are the professionals who know how to build relationship with various publics, who change public opinion and who know how to move markets.  But, PR should never be in a silo.  It must interact and provide guidance for all types of communication across a number of channels. Being a hybrid and having a strong understanding of the other areas of marketing and web, strengthens our roles; it doesn’t dilute what we do.

Many years ago I was told that PR people have to know what keeps the CEO up at night.  It’s clear to me that social media and how it changes a business can easily keep an executive’s eyes wide open.  Social media communication is human and transparent and when it’s in the hands of the new C-Suite (the consumer suite) a company’s reputation could be at stake.  We need to be tapped into the social realm and know how the information we retrieve, as a result of social media, will move across our organizations from our marketing departments all the way to customer service, sales, product development, HR, etc.  I think we’ve always been connected to other groups and the strategies and tactics that we’ve used in the past have helped to link us to these areas. But, social media communication and our ability to listen more closely offer us a greater opportunity to be even more tied to the brand’s business and functions across the organization. We’re able to reach higher-level goals and to do our jobs with more accountability.

I’m excited to discuss how the PR past has led to social media power and that our education and skills as communicators and relationship builders make us prime candidates to lead and grow in social media.  How do you feel about the hybrid professional and do you see how a strong PR past can propel PR forward?

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This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Deirdre,

    I would like to think I’m a hybrid professional. I can also sprinkle in some of my past experience in television and radio to help.

    PR is moving forward. Most importantly, CEOs, etc., are seeing the value in that hybrid professional. We recently met with a client and I was doing a social media presentation. The CEO asked a ton of great, tough questions. After I was done he came up to me and said, “I’m old, but our organization is full of young people who use (social media). I may not use it, but WE need to use it.”

    The bottom line, to me, is that if we continue to show that we are trustworthy and social media savvy, our advice will speak volumes at the strategy table.

    Best Regards,
    Jason Mollica

  2. “The Hybrid Professional” [Evolution of Public Relations] – Deirdre Breakenridge – j#socialmedia #change #trends

  3. Paul Roetzer says:


    I totally agree with you on the hybrid professional, and would even take it a step further beyond social media.

    We wrote a post last April on the “10 Traits of an Emerging PR Pro” in which we explained that “professionals will be trained to deliver services such as: content marketing, social media consulting, blogging, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, mobile marketing and website development, as well as evolved forms of publicity, brand marketing and crisis communications.

    “In essence, they will be a hybrid professional, providing integrated solutions for PR, Web, SEO, advertising and branding that used to require multiple agencies and consultants. As a result, these complementary, yet competitive, industries will converge.”

    The industry is definitely evolving, and there are tremendous opportunities for firms and professionals that adapt and expand their knowledge and capabilities.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Deirdre says:

    Hi Paul! Thank so much for sharing your insight. Your post sounds really interesting and definitely is a step further. I think that the integrated capabilities strengthen the position/value of the communications professional and it will be interesting to see how our industry embraces all of these opportunities. Have a great weekend :)

  5. Jason says:

    Hi Deidre,

    As a young PR professional (only 23 years old!) I always wonder whether my thoughts and opinions about the business have any real merit. After all, how much can I *really* know about the PR?

    Your post confirmed that my thoughts aren’t as crazy as I thought they were. Sure, I use tradiaional media relations — sending out press releases, picking up the phone to pitch reporters, building media lists — but more and more, it seems that social media is taking up a bigger chunk of my time.

    I find prospective publics and media contacts via Twitter, identify blogs and online communities that might be of my client’s interest, and try to engage myself in these forums as genuinely and effectively as possible. Of course, part of this strategy comes from reading your books ;-)

    As much flack as our industry gets, I really think we’re primed for a PR renaissance — assuming we all buckle down and take our roles seriously. By effectively using all the new technologies available, we can really make a positive impression in the eyes of our clients, and hopefully the greater public as well.

  6. [...] The Hybrid Professional #PRofWorld“My presentation will delve into the role PR will play in social media and identify the hybrid PR professional; the individual who exhibits social media power. I’ll touch upon the communications professional who understands and practices strategic PR, who demonstrates the necessary hybrid characteristics and the PR person who assumes new roles and responsibilities willingly, as social media becomes a greater part of brand communication.” [...]

  7. Deirdre says:

    Hi Jason! All I can say is Bravo!! I applaud your thinking and whether you’re a young professional or 25 years in the business, you are spot on! Thank you for sharing your insights and for being a PR champion by knowing when to use traditional communications and when to engage in conversations in the social media landscape to make a positive impression in the eyes of the public. Keep up the good work :)

  8. Thanks Deirdre, you made my day with this post. Many Social Media Consultants here in Europe talk about PR having to get much mor social (of course) and at the same time very tactical: managing all the tools hence and forth. I am in the process of writing a new book on the topic (thanks for many inspirations) in German and sometimes I felt a little bit “old school” – repeating that some of the basic concepts of PR just have to stick around in Social Media. It is interesting that you have to come up with the adjective “hybrid” combining strategy and tactics at the same time. I remember old times when “holistic” was one of those adjectives. however we coin it: pr consultants have to a) see the whole picture b) bring in their experience to a table, that gets bigger and bigger year by year and demands cooperation from all communicative departments.

  9. Deirdre,

    I love this post. While some people carve out niches defined by their successes in certain areas, most of us are working for brands that need our counsel and assistance in multiple areas. Whether it’s understanding how to use email marketing to drive social media conversations … or leveraging media placements into lead-generation activities, PR people need to get it. And know how to get results.

    Related, I think hybrid PR pros need to know how to assemble the right team. This is something I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about lately. It’s impossible for one person to know everything, and to be able to do everything … especially in an agency setting where you’re working on a number of clients. But, the team leader does need the perspective to understand what skills are required and how to plug the right people into the right positions to deliver the desired outcomes.

    As always, thanks for an insightful post. This one really has me thinking! :)


  10. The future of PR – The Hybrid Professional via @sueyoungmedia (Awesome! @dbreakenridge)

  11. Deirdre says:

    Hi Heather! Thank you and I really appreciate you sharing your insight. I agree with you. Hybrid pros have to realize that they can’t do it all themselves and it’s critical to select the right team, especially when working on a number of clients. I’m really happy that the post is making you think. I’ve been thinking a lot about it too, not only because it’s such an interesting topic but also because it’s a great way for our profession to move forward and take greater strides with social media :)

  12. Deirdre says:

    Hi Marcel! Thank you so much :) I’m really excited that you are working on a book. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic. I couldn’t agree with you more that PR has to see and be involved in the whole picture. And, through our experience building relationships and demonstrating value through measurement, we definitely earn a seat at the strategy table. However, much of this depends being more tapped into other areas of communication.

  13. Frank Strong says:

    Hi Deirdre, thanks for this post — it’s a great concept and you’ve definitely had a role in shaping my thinking. Indeed, I agree, PR pros need to acquire skills that have traditionally been outside PR’s “lane.” Looking forward to meeting you IRL at the conference! Cheers, Frank

  14. Deirdre says:

    Hey Frank! I really appreciate your feedback on my post. I’m looking forward to meeting you at the Vocus Conference. Will see you on Thursday morning :)

  15. Nice conversation with Deirdre Breakenridge about her Vocus keynote;

  16. [...] to connect with media turned bloggers and new influencers, as well as our customers directly.”The Hybrid Professional, Deirdre Breakenridge Categories: Featured, Social Media, marketing Tags: engagement, hot [...]

  17. Lyndi says:

    Love this post. I think everyone should read this. The evolution of PR is beyond the decline of print. PR is a flexible and needs to be ready to adapt to any media that sprouts. Including this post in my 5 Lava Hot Social Media reads. Great!

  18. Deirdre says:

    Hi Lyndi! Thank you very much for commenting and I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. I agree that we have to exhibit great flexibility with the changing landscape and must always be ready to adapt to new developments in PR. Great thoughts…thanks!

  19. Deirdre says:

    Hey Jason! That’s awesome that the CEO asked tough questions and even if he’s older still sees the need for his organization to engage. You must have felt really good coming out of that meeting! Thanks so much for sharing your insight. I think the hybrid topic is very interesting and it will definitely result in PR taking a lead role in social media.

  20. [...] with the market.  The PR professional of the future has business savvy, technical know-how and a hybrid of skills that add value to an [...]

  21. [...] is a very talented designer and app developer.  When he showed me his design vision for my PR Hybrid Professional, connecting all of the new PR practices, I immediately saw my years of work come to [...]

  22. [...] methodologies should be thrown out, like the proverbial baby with the bathwater. But we have more ways to conduct research than ever before. Many of them are free, or low-cost… so why not take advantage of them? However, once again, how [...]

  23. [...] methodologies should be thrown out, like the proverbial baby with the bathwater. But we have more ways to conduct research than ever before. Many of them are free, or low-cost… so why not take advantage of them? However, once again, how [...]

  24. [...] original champions in my mind is Deirdre Breakenridge, who has actively promoted the idea of “the hybrid professional.” However, I think things have evolved more quickly than anticipated, to the extent I am [...]

  25. […] The net effect of this misguided view rests in overhead, excessive cost and worse, lost opportunity.  It’s silo-ed thinking.  Marketing stays on their side of the room, PR stays in their corner – nobody crosses the line.  Nobody. This may have worked in the past.  PR fielded media calls, stamped out press releases and maybe wrote a speech or two.  Marketing worked on slogans, direct mail and advertising campaigns.   Sure, integration between the two disciplines could have improved results, but campaigns surely didn’t fail for lack of streamline; they had different goals.Then something changed:  the world went digital – which meant new rules for marketing and PR.  Word spread faster – now is gone.  It became social – engage or die.  Trust agents became a key to influence.  Content was – and is – like currency, bartered for attention on the world’s largest exchange, which in turn is becoming more and more segmented.These dynamics are forcing a tighter link between PR and marketing, and though I’ve argued that generally,marketing looks more like PR, the reality is, it doesn’t matter who made who.  What matters are results.  It’s giving rise to the notion of, as Deirdre Breakenridge puts it, thehybrid professional. […]

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