The process of selecting the companies and individuals appearing in our second annual Editors' Choice/Who To Watch feature, which begins on p. 9 of this issue, revealed a number of themes that will continue to dominate the industry in 2006.
Even one year ago, the implications of the new-media landscape, including the blogosphere, the proliferation of media channels and tools, and the scope of innovation that traditional media outlets would explore, were relatively discrete. Now these strategies and questions are dominating much of the industry's innovation.
It remains to be seen how well they will be applied to meeting the objectives of companies and clients, and how large a presence the PR industry will have in this environment, relative to other marketing expertise.
Speaking of the marketing mix, this year we will begin to see the repercussions of the groundbreaking work done by Procter & Gamble to measure the ROI of PR, relative to other marketing disciplines. Where the powerhouse marketers like P&G go, so goeth the rest of the world. Beyond the salubrious results for the PR industry, P&G's efforts set a standard for embracing accountability that still eludes some in-house communicators.
Finally, PR agencies can learn a lot from the nimbleness and marketing focus of Edelman, even as it must find the right way to communicate its particular culture and values. Out of necessity and tradition, this is a profession that lets others take the spotlight. But in some ways, the industry has found itself forced into the limelight through a series of controversial issues and high-profile campaigns. PR leaders should play a role in telling the industry's story, rather than leaving it to others.
Even for new media, old media relations works
Gawker recently posted an e-mail thread from a junior account staffer at Weber Shandwick, which, in the blog's typical style, gave a mocking review of his pitch on behalf of a client. Nothing is sacred in the blogosphere, online forums that seek hourly fodder are likely to seize on any example of the inane or mundane and turn it into an ironic entry.
The posting did the e-mail rounds, as these things do, and some are inclined to seize upon it as a cautionary tale about pitching the new media. But few firms would find themselves immune to the same kind of flaming, as consumer pitches of this kind are far from unusual.
One may analyze endlessly the process of pitching the blogging community. But I'm not convinced there is a huge difference between engaging the interest of a so-called traditional journalist and a blogger. All the rules of understanding the tone, interest, and content of the target apply to old and new media alike.
Rather, I think the issue for the industry as a whole is how to develop sophisticated media strategies across media channels, and execute those strategies with skill and sensitivity. Clients and companies may sometimes focus only on the objective, and the creativity behind an idea, and neglect the plan for communicating the program externally. It is a fact that media relations is a discipline that is only learned the hard way, though direct experience.