Reaffirming PR's mandate in the social-media age

There's little disagreement that PR and, indeed, communications and marketing as a whole are in transition.

There's little disagreement that PR and, indeed, communications and marketing as a whole are in transition.

Organizations and brands are actively seeking alternative avenues from traditional paid media and broadcasting options to connect with consumers and buyers in more personal ways. This has triggered the emergence of a myriad of social media channels - blogs, podcasts, videocasts, and mobile marketing, to name
but a few.

The move from traditional marketing techniques to these new media approaches are sparking advertising agencies, interactive shops, direct marketers, and others to jump into PR's mainstream activities, including event planning, media relations, and online dialogues and relationships, among others, as they attempt to open the box of social media and other influencer techniques.

What does this portend for the PR profession? It means that the time is very ripe to solidify and strengthen our industry's established position of building and sustaining relationships, lest we cede our expanding position to other disciplines that approach social media from a perspective that is still rooted in the "push" messages that so turn off consumers.

PR is the one business discipline that has always been about "social influence." And we've arrived at this crossroad at a time when PR has become top-of-mind. The fast-expanding global world of commerce is coming around to PR, recognizing that social rules - transparency, relationships, meaningful conversation - favor PR.

The Council's Role
With so many transformative developments occurring within the boundaries of communications, the Council of Public Relations Firms embraces the opportunity to help the industry redefine its space, develop a common language and, perhaps most importantly, illuminate and underscore its heritage by answering the question, "Who else but PR?" This effort augments a broader Council initiative to promote the value of using PR and PR firms.

Among these initiatives is an immersion session, being held on November 2, that will analyze the opportunities, threats, and strategies facing the industry. This will be an enlightening meeting for industry leaders and others, and will provide a forum for critical dialogue on the force and direction the profession can pursue to forge ahead of would-be competitors.

The Council is also committed to showcasing the innovation demonstrated by its members to "enhance the conversation." It is commissioning a study of best practices in social media, and it is inviting all agencies - members and non-members alike - to participate. As social rules today trump command-and-control and other non-social approaches to marketing, "PR" is beginning to sound very good. Together we can take advantage of this opportunity and claim ownership of what should rightfully be ours.

Kathy Cripps is President of the Council of Public Relations Firms. Paul Rand, partner and global chief development and innovation officer at Ketchum, and Giovanni Rodriguez, a principal at Eastwick Communications, contributed to this column. Both are part of the Council's task force that is addressing issues covered in this article.

The Council is dedicated to strengthening the recognition and role of public relations firms in corporate strategy, business performance, and social education, serving as an authoritative source of information and expert comment and helping set standards for the PR industry. For more information about the Council of Public Relations Firms, call 1-877-PRFIRMS or visit our Web site at www. prfirms.org.

This column is contributed and paid for by the Council of PR Firms.

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