FROM THE EDITOR: Welcome to the age of dialogue

We now live in the 'dialogue age'. That, at least, is the view of one global PR agency head with whom I was speaking yesterday. He argued the age of mass media communication, which had begun in the 1930s, had finally come to an end.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

It is not a new thesis, but one that may now be reaching its tipping point. In an article that appeared in The Observer on Sunday, I was quoted as saying: 'In the 1980s and 1990s it was all about advertising. But it's no longer enough to broadcast big messages to people; organisations have realised they need a dialogue with the public and the media.'

Since the piece appeared I have been inundated with messages from people who agree, and who have developed similar mission statements in their own organisations.

The need for organisations to invest in constructive dialogue with all sorts of stakeholders has emerged as the key driver of this industry - and its biggest hope in an increasingly dark economic climate.

A comms director of a global brand also told me yesterday that his department was picking up many responsibilities that had previously resided within the marketing and advertising departments. When asked why, he responded: 'Because traditional marketing techniques have been guilty of simply throwing money at problems, whereas PR is better at building relationships.'

Therein lies the strength of this profession. While chill winds blow through client corridors, PR spend is so far holding up. This is because it represents an essential comms channel that cannot be turned off in a downturn, and because it usually represents great value for money.

There are two major challenges, however. First, PR still needs to get better at measuring its output and outcomes, because a recession will focus the finance director's mind as never before. The second is to keep investing in the best people and in developing the skills of constructive dialogue.

Fail in these areas and you can be sure that other disciplines will quickly encroach on your patch.

See: www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jun/29/media.

Email: danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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