For most PR practitioners, the high point of their exposure to the
wonders of new technology is Microsoft Word and their Bacons or Vocus
database. There are good reasons for this. PR is a discipline
fundamentally built on the ability of its foot soldiers to get on the
phone and persuade - a task that lives or dies on the simple gift of gab
or the written word.
PR agencies have also shown themselves to be less than keen to invest
large amounts of money in significant new pieces of agency-wide kit,
conscious of the fact that any outlay has to be somehow recouped in fees
But all this is changing. As the agency game gets ever tougher, shops
need to professionalize their services in order to increase efficiency
and distinguish themselves from the competition.
Technology that offers better and quicker ways to work directly with
clients - 'collaborative technology' - is one of the hottest new tools
around at the moment. Who wouldn't be happy to share the editing of a
press release online, in real time, rather than have to undertake a
50-mile round-trip to visit a client to do the job? This was the one of
the most visible benefits to one of our four tech testers in this week's
issue (see page 20).
But the value of technology to PR agencies isn't just at a tactical
Agencies are learning that it is worth the investment to hook every
employee up into some kind of common knowledge-sharing system. Ketchum
is a particularly fervent advocate of using technology to standardize
the 'experience' that its people offer to clients, and has recently
invested in agency-wide technology that means PR executives can share
account knowledge (within the boundaries of client conflict), and work
with clients more efficiently.
Fleishman-Hillard's CEO John Graham has managed to cut down the time he
spends on a plane by using streaming video technology to talk to
employees across the world.
We think technology will only increase in importance to the PR industry,
and will be devoting more space to studying its effects in future