Declaring age of PR 3.0 a bit premature

Public Relations 3.0 (Agency Business Report, April 23) does not seem like a fair term for what's going on in the new media environment.

Public Relations 3.0 (Agency Business Report, April 23) does not seem like a fair term for what's going on in the new media environment.

Most PR practitioners have not fully adopted PR 2.0 or new media (defined as blogging and other forms of social networking) into their functional businesses. As such, 3.0 is an attempt to put the whole new debate behind us, an impossible gesture when most agencies don’t use 2.0.

Anyone that reads industry statements from CEOs in the larger agencies may find this to be a heretical statement. But even though most senior agency executives say their agencies have adopted new media, their line managers –account executives advising clients on a day-to-day basis – rarely have the hybrid expertise to effectively wage publicity campaigns across diverse media. Most wait on the sidelines to see if new media forms have staying power.

Instead, agencies like to hire teams of bloggers and create a “lab” or a “studio.” They may even have a Steve Rubel on board with a highly successful blog. These lab teams or “Joe,” the blogging expert, are brought into accounts on an as needed basis. This patchwork approach will not be as effective as the new media evolution continues.

On the smaller agency level, execs are either for or against new media. Some agencies don’t offer blogging services. One must wonder how long they intend to remain in business.

Developing Hybrids

As demand for functional hybrid account executives develops, agencies will need to either develop experienced executives who operate in both media worlds, train them in new media techniques, or acquire the talent.

This need to suddenly offer expertise is reminiscent of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) trend – or Internet-based telephony – of the late nineties and earlier part of this decade. In the mid-to-late nineties, traditional telecom companies decried the so-called promise of VoIP, but the VoIP believers continued to build their technology via start-ups.

In the very late nineties, it became apparent that streaming VoIP was indeed a viable solution to traditional monopolized telecommunications services. To quickly come up to speed, major equipment manufacturers like Nortel, Alcatel, Lucent Technologies, Siemens, and Cisco went on an acquisition binge rarely seen before. The fury became part of what fueled the legendary dot-bomb crash, and sent the telecom market into a mini-depression.

While the industry recovered, Skype, Vonage, USLEC and other competitive services arose, permanently rooting VoIP into the marketplace. The major carriers began moving their switches over to VoIP during the past two to three years. The equipment manufacturers’ acquisition strategies worked, and IP technologies are fueling a good deal of their annual sales.

It’s likely that our industry will see a similar acquisition trend. Though it may not reach dot-bomb levels, if the new media evolution continues at its current pace many firms will likely feel that training hybrid talent cannot occur fast enough. They will look beyond their walls for new media capable agencies.

Geoff Livingston is CEO of Livingston Communications. He blogs at The Buzz Bin

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