Owning online conversation necessitates new skills

Public relations is staring at the most challenging crisis in its history. The industry's ability to quickly incorporate new skill sets will in large part...

Public relations is staring at the most challenging crisis in its history. The industry's ability to quickly incorporate new skill sets will in large part determine its influence, and perhaps relevance, in the next few years.

The cause for this change boils down to a dramatic shift in consumer behavior. Yes, people are simply consuming more media online. But, more importantly, they are creating, re-contextualizing, and sharing their own media. As a result, PR must embrace three new survival skills.

Because every communication online results in the creation of attention data, we are able to transparently measure the benefits of PR for the first time. This measurement requires employees with deep analytics, research, and math skills.

New technologies are fueling this shift, reshaping the landscape with greater and greater frequency. As a result, PR professionals must now possess a genuine understanding of technology and its implications, regardless of their area of expertise.

Because influence is increasingly gained online by publishing and sharing, rather than pitching and releasing, both agencies and internal departments must focus on the production, not just the facilitation, of meaningful content.

And while the value of earned media has never been higher, given the competition for attention, it is shocking that PR is slower to embrace these new skills. Less than a third of the companies that hire Attention to drive word-of-mouth fund the work from their communications budgets.

PR faces intense competition for ownership of online media, and at the very least, must have the skills to collaborate. The benefits of social media – reputation, demand, engagement, word-of-mouth — cross organizations. The PR industry might not yet realize the cost of losing control of the conversation online, but it will.

Curtis Hougland, founder of Attention

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