As the PR industry adopts a growing number of new-media devices and communication tools, much like the business world at large, not only is the way agencies communicate internally and with clients changing, but firms' approach to the work they do is also being altered.
"The constant connection to the online world is much different for a PR pro now than it was even five years ago," says Mara Bartucca, president of Emerge PR. "For clients, it's another channel of external and internal communications."
Meggan Manson, VP at Young & Associates, says one of the biggest challenges for her company in the past 12 to 18 months has been the proliferation of blogs. "[They've] definitely added an element to PR work as far as tracking and developing relationships," Manson says. "And trying to identify who in the community is a legitimate industry influencer or thought leader vs. the more homegrown blogs, and how you treat the two different aspects."
Though the firm hasn't increased its staff, Manson says, the onset of blogs has definitely added to everyone's workload, considering the scope of information that now must be monitored.
Other new-media tools, such as wikis, are streamlining agencies' chain of communications both internally and externally.
"Wikis and collaboration is a space we and many [other] people in the industry are using now as opposed to just sticking with dry e-mail," says Jordan Chanofsky, CEO at Fusion Public Relations. "The opportunity to be collaborative in real time and working with each other on documents - releases, white papers, or some other form - means that you're done faster and more efficiently."
While communicating via wikis has yet to become the norm within client-agency relationships, Chanofsky believes it's slowly becoming more commonplace.
"For organizations and agencies that want to live on the edge of technology and do things in a more advanced way, that will be a standard way of working," he says.
A trickier side of things is the relationship between agency and journalist. There, Chanofsky says, wikis present both opportunity and risk; a firm must be clear about what it's looking to accomplish in allowing the media access to its wiki. The tool allows for quicker and wider distribution of information, Chanofsky says, but one runs the risk "that someone out there, three or four links down the chain, is going to try and interpret information you haven't had the chance to express in more than a paragraph... If you want to educate someone, you [need] some level of control in what you do."
Even with this influx of new communications options, Chanofsky says he doesn't believe the traditional press release will disappear. Still, he notes, Fusion has started experimenting with new ways to use the standard release.
"The [press] release isn't going away, but for new media, we have been launching directly to blogs as an introduction to a launch," he says. "It doesn't work for every client, but if you have a Web 2.0 client or a collaboration client where those technologies are naturally understood by the parties you speak to, it's not necessarily a bad idea. And there's a lot to gain."
New-media tools can create a more efficient and effective line of agency communications, both internally and externally
Developing relationships with relevant bloggers can be beneficial to PR efforts
Incorporating new media in a campaign launch may not be a fit for every client