Is PR 3.0 a Trojan Horse?

There's nothing like a great story on CNBC, or in The Wall Street Journal, or even the local small-town gazette, to bring a smile to the CEO's face. Now that's worth charging for.

In the same manner that Wall Street is finding it impossible to move from its old compensation model, the traditional PR industry is discovering new ways, under the guise of PR 3.0, to convince clients to pay fat monthly charges – except, of course, for real media coverage.

As part of any client's efforts to increase its online presence, engage its online audience, and have a greater handle on online conversations, the client has to look for a firm that can handle social monitoring and engagement, as well as traditional media outreach.

But too many old guard PR firms, as well as more than a few boutique shops that were never able to consistently deliver coverage, are finding a client's desire to engage in the new PR 3.0 as a means to disguise this incompetence. They're also using it to once again justify fat hourly fees and monster retainers. As far as traditional media coverage -- say, that story in The Wall Street Journal, on CNN, or the local media -- it's subjugated to ”oh, we'll get that as well, and under the same (enormous) fee we're charging you to know what Mrs. Jones is saying about you on Twitter.”  Right.

I'm not so old or old fashioned not to recognize that the Internet has changed both the rules of PR and the game itself in such a dramatic fashion that any program not acknowledging its influence is obsolete before it is launched. But I'm also old enough to recognize the old shell game once again being played by many in this industry -- dazzle clients with new and mysterious ways of understanding and communicating with their stakeholders and customers, then charge them like crazy every month whether or not there's been any tangible results. Actual media coverage: "it's coming… maybe next month.”

No question PR 3.0 is vital. It's imperative for clients to understand and address their online presence when creating an overall comprehensive PR program. And online presence no longer just means a client's website design or simple search engine optimization. It means understanding and developing a digital strategy that takes into account SEO and the online media and uses the latest trends in Internet communications such as specialized interactive web sites, blogs, and the ever-expanding social media.

But there's nothing like a great story on CNBC, or in the Journal, or even the local small-town gazette, to bring a smile to the CEO's face. Now that's worth charging for.

Richard Grove is CEO of Ink. He has more than four decades of experience in the media industry

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