PR industry should not be complacent

The great and the good of the communications industry congregated in Arizona last week for the annual PR Seminar gathering of key client and agency chief executives.

The great and the good of the communications industry congregated in Arizona last week for the annual PR Seminar gathering of key client and agency chief executives.

Discussions remain strictly between the four walls of the conference hotel, but participants at this secretive get-together will no doubt have been in good heart after a concerted period of economic doom and gloom finally started to shift in recent months. They will have reflected on the fact that PR is no longer the bastard child of marketing services.

PR is very much on the front foot and relishing its long-yearned-for place at the center of day-in and day-out corporate practice. While traditional paid-for advertising still dominates marketers' budget spends, earned media is coming up fast on the rails and rapidly attracting serious chunks of money.

Marketing is moving from the lean-back age of broadcast into the interactive age of conversation - and PR is strongly placed to lead this evolution. Ad agencies might acquire or launch their own PR agencies, or recruit people from the PR community to set up PR departments, but it takes much more than that to change a deeply entrenched paid-for media culture.

Smart chief communications officers understand this and are using their familiarity with the age of conversation to advance the cause of communications in their organizations, and, subsequently, their own careers.

PR agencies are also thriving in their new position of strength and this bodes well for the future of communications. The only note of caution is that the advertising lobby plays a fundamental role in agency networks and marketing communications. It will not rest on its laurels and let this situation continue unopposed.

The senior executives at the PR Seminar and beyond must make sure they stay ahead of the game, remain on the front foot and continue to lead the way in the age of conversation. This is no time for complacency.

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