PR of the Past vs. PR 2.0 Today
Even though PR is over 100 years old, I can only comment from experience on the last 20 years. As I walk down memory lane, from my first job at Padilla Spear Burdick & Beardsley (now Padilla Spear) until today, I think PR has grown in a number of ways.
Let me give you a little comparison – PR in 1988 vs. PR 2.0 in 2009. When I started as an assistant account executive in 1988, here were my responsibilities:
- Updating Bacon’s books (Bacon’s in now called Cision Media Relations Resources) with print and broadcast media contacts. I literally used to lick and stick labels into a book to keep the executives, who pitched the client stories, in touch with the appropriate journalists.
- Creating media lists by hand and then typing them on a Brother typewriter. I would take the time to call each and every outlet to verify the media person’s contact information.
- Coordinating media tours for clients in different cities (whether they were executives from large financial firms to authors)
- Reading as many business/financial and industry related print publications to keep my executives updated on their clients’ industries.
- Compiling quarterly clips books by cutting up clips and neatly arranging and gluing them on a page with the proper identification.
- Drafting traditional press releases (AP inverted triangle style of writing) and routing them for approval.
- Pitching media for credible third party endorsements (always trying to land that top tier publication).
- Helping with the coordination of press events for new product launches.
Does the list above sound familiar? Most of my responsibilities were tasks pre-technology and were focused on obtaining third party endorsements (pitching the media) for clients. There was no video, podcasts and RSS feeds and no blogging or social networks for clients to interact directly with customers. Come to think of it, we didn’t have these great social media tools because there was no World Wide Web; it wasn’t even born. If memory serves me, the closest thing my office had to transporting information was a CPT data transfer system (from our office in NYC to headquarters in Minneapolis), via a mainframe computer.
Thankfully, PR has advanced, and we as an industry we are much more technically savvy. Here are the PR account executive’s responsibilities today, and even though traditional media pitching is still present, several new tasks include:
- Skillfully developing media databases by using proprietary software programs via the Internet.
- Doing research in the different social networks to gather competitive information, customer feedback and to monitor conversations (research is done with Google alerts, TweetBeeps, Radian6, BuzzLogic, or any number of programs that allow you to observe the blogosphere) .
- Scouring blogs and looking for opportunities for clients to get involved in the dialogue.
- Assisting with the editorial content for blogs by reviewing relevant topics and by checking daily news feeds.
- Working with monitoring services to obtain links to endorsements and also scans of relevant client coverage for client reports.
- Building profiles on social networks (i.e. on MySpace, Facebook or Twitter)
- Identifying and following new media influencers to target for FYI types of communication
- Gathering information and interactive media to create Social Media Releases.
- Coordinating influencer events to include bloggers who will provide valuable feedback on the launch of new products/services and who will blog and/or tweet as the event is taking place.
What a difference! I think PR has changed for the better. Our industry has advanced. It will continue to grow and change as the media landscape is no longer just for traditional journalists and content is generated by consumers and new media influencers. PR has not only grown, when you compare the differences between then and now, it’s all grown up and is an even more valuable resource to any organization.
PR 2.0 helps to facilitate meaningful conversations and builds stronger relationships, not only with influencers but also directly with a brand’s customers. I’ll never forget the past, but I’m much happier with the PR 2.0 of today and the PR that the future will bring. What was your PR past like and are you happier with PR 2.0 today?
February 2, 2009 @ 4:02 pm
A lot of PR people don’t even know that PR has evolve…or they don’t want that !
February 2, 2009 @ 6:04 pm
It’s amazing to me how much the entire communications landscape has evolved; PR is probably seeing some of the most dramatic changes right now, but there’s no doubt that the new media are changing everything from advertising to traditional marketing to even customer service and R&D. The immediacy of information is requiring that business as a whole evolve, or risk being left behind.
Great post, and thanks for the Radian6 mention, too.
Director of Community | Radian6
Martin Edic (Techrigy)
February 2, 2009 @ 6:07 pm
I think the change is enormous in just the past 2 years or so. Our whole business model (social media monitoring) barely existed and now we’re tracking billions of conversations about brands and reputations- conversations that did not exist a few years ago. You can achieve remarkable things, communications-wise, with this access and the analytics that come with it.
February 2, 2009 @ 6:48 pm
Yes, you make a good point. I see a lot of this reluctancy to evolve every day. However, by not shifting with the technology and the social media tools, PR professionals risk being left behind. It’s very important for PR people to learn when to use a traditional approach based on their customers’ needs and when to reach out via social media to engage in direct communication.
February 2, 2009 @ 6:57 pm
Thanks, Amber! I think the PR profession is undergoing a tremendous change and we need to help our brands to understand how to navigate the social media landscape and engage directly with customers and new influencers. It’s exciting, yet at the same time very intimidating to some professionals who are reluctant to shipt their approach. They, along with their companies, risk falling behind.
February 2, 2009 @ 7:02 pm
Hi Martin, thanks for commenting. I agree! The technology is amazing. It can make brands smarter and more connected to customers through really good monitoring of the blogosphere. When I wrote the post, it amazed me just how different PR is today compared to the PR of the past. PR 2.0 and social media communication can only lead to more meaningful conversations and better relationships for our brands. I think the best is yet to come!
February 3, 2009 @ 4:30 am
First and foremost I want to say, I love your book. I have my copy sitting right next to me. I’m a PR student and have been working at several different groups. My success has come because of your book. It’s amazing how fast technology proliferates and our professions become updated.
There are too many professionals already lagging behind the curve. their either too busy to get their PR updated to 2.0 or don’t really understand the nature of 2.0. Your list of then and now is fascinating ( and a little comical). I really enjoy engaging in Pr 2.0 and look forward to where this taking all of us.
February 3, 2009 @ 2:45 pm
Hi Adam, thank you so much for the positive feedback on my book, PR 2.0. I’m so happy that you liked it! It’s great to know that students are embracing PR 2.0 and new social media communications tools. You and your peers are our future and you will help to shape and lead the PR industry : ) I think it’s tough for some professionals to change their approach after years of practicing PR a certain way. I was happy to change my approach (as you can see by my list of past vs. present). The change is both important to the growth of our careers and our industry. Thanks for commenting!