End of year signals the need to revamp comms strategy

As 2008 ends, PRWeek takes a look back at the year in communications with our annual Book of Lists. It also gives all PR pros a chance to reassess. While firms and corporate PR departments alike wait on 2009 budgets, it's time for a thorough housecleaning.

As 2008 ends, PRWeek takes a look back at the year in communications with our annual Book of Lists. It also gives all PR pros a chance to reassess. While firms and corporate PR departments alike wait on 2009 budgets, it's time for a thorough housecleaning.

The month from 2008 that will likely stand out in everyone's memory is September, when the US financial system took a dramatic nosedive and Wall Street and Washington embarked on a new relationship that conjured up once forgotten terms like “crash” and “nationalize.” These changes will have a long-term effect on US business, as will the incoming president, which marked another history-making 2008 event.

At the nucleus of 2009 ambitions will be efficiency, smart spending, creativity, transparency, and social media for direct engagement. These are not new objectives for PR, but with the national attitude fixed on these ideas, agencies and in-house PR teams must also carefully scrutinize their use of them.

For example, if a once privately funded company is now taking money from the government, it needs to rethink who its stakeholders are and how it responds to them. President-elect Barack Obama's Change.gov site is already soliciting direct input from the public, setting a standard for this trend. In this issue, PRWeek reports that two major firms have readjusted their social media and public affairs practices, while a separate social media ad-hoc group has risen up to offer a new solution to the “social media gap.”

PR pros should analyze which of their programs follow these rules of engagement, and if they are allocating resources in support or wasting it on out-of-date projects. Firms need to reconsider practices, as well as how to think creatively for clients who are demanding more for less.

It will undoubtedly be another eventful year as the industry adjusts, shakes out dead weight, and looks for new ways to engage stakeholders blindsided by a dramatic 2008.

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