PR needs to boldly step out of its shell, say agency execs

NEW YORK: It's time for the PR industry to shed its "Clark Kent" persona and become "Superman," said Fred Cook, CEO of GolinHarris, on Wednesday at the PRWeek NEXT Conference.

NEW YORK: It's time for the PR industry to shed its “Clark Kent” persona and become “Superman,” said Fred Cook, CEO of GolinHarris, on Wednesday at the PRWeek NEXT Conference.

“We just have to be a bit more bold with our work and our ideas,” he said, acknowledging the inferiority complex some PR practitioners feel in comparison to advertising professionals.

"There's an old formula that's been in the business for a long time that says advertising should be this much, and then PR should be a percentage of that," Cook continued. "The reason why advertising has all this money is because it's all paid. A good part of their money is the media budget, and as we evolve, I think we will have some opportunity to do that work."

Cook joined Rob Flaherty, president of Ketchum, and Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, at the concluding panel of the two-day event, which addressed the opportunities and challenges the PR industry will face.

Edelman agreed that now is the time for PR to come out of the shadow of the ad industry, and added that PR agencies should promote their social media services at the rate they see fit, even if that is less expensive than the rates charged by advertising shops.

“I think that PR firms have to be brave enough to say, ‘This is the price at which we can deliver quality, and beyond that we can be incredible,'” said Edelman. “We have to be brave enough to say, ‘This is what we do; this is what we charge for.'”

Meanwhile, Flaherty, who said he is optimistic about the future of PR, explained that in the last five years the cost of content and distribution has dropped dramatically because of advances in technology. At the same time, the talent pool for the $8 billion to $10 billion industry has grown significantly, he added.

“The next generation of talent is going to shape an unbelievable future for this business,” said Flaherty. “I couldn't be more optimistic.”

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