Social media ushers in a new PR age

If I could hire any two people in the world to join my PR consultancy, who would they be?

If I could hire any two people in the world to join my PR consultancy, who would they be?

The answer today sure is different than 18 months ago. I most likely would have rattled off the name of a well-respected technology trade journalist, industry analyst, or agency executive. My top choices now: award-winning movie producer/director Steven Spielberg and YouTube sensation-turned-actress Lonelygirl15.

Education and engagement have defined PR. Communications executives excel at forming meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with an organization's key stakeholders. PR practiced ethically presents a perspective corporate story and then encourages dialogue and debate. That's how relationships are formed.

But the requirements of PR pros has changed more rapidly in the past year and a half than at any time during my nearly 20-year career. In addition to education and engagement, we need to add a third "e" to the PR skill set: entertainment.

The ability to capture and hold an audience's attention in innovative ways is a must for any communications program to achieve its benchmarks. It's comparable to the creative spirit that permeates Hollywood, Broadway, and Web 2.0 startups in Silicon Valley.

Driver of the PR sea change. It's no secret the business model employed by traditional media has suffered. Advertising budgets have rapidly shifted to online where there is a greater level of measurability and accountability. Consumers also now expect that editorial content be delivered via the Web free of charge.

In turn, broadcasters and publishers have slashed payrolls. Journalists are asked to carry a heavier load by producing more content faster, while continuing to adhere to the standards and principles that have long shaped their profession.

The meteoric rise of social media is the second catalyst of this change in the PR world. Consumers and corporate audiences alike by-pass traditional PR channels to communicate, educate, collaborate, network, and cultivate relationships.

Social networks, Web-based video, blogging, and micro-blogging platforms have empowered individuals. A person today can exist online as both a consumer and publisher of media.

The entertainment conundrum. PR and corporate communications pros must now adopt an element of entertainment to social media campaigns. The Web is a prickly medium. Consumers, business buyers, investors, partners, and employees ignore content that fails to educate, engage, and entertain.

High-value content has always been PR's calling. We're now presented with the chance to experiment, explore, and derive value from involvement in social media.
Quick - someone get me Steven Spielberg on the line. I want to talk to him about a career in PR.

Marc Hausman is president/CEO of Strategic Communications Group, a PR consultancy based in Silver Spring, MD.

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