Changes in media show the need for integration

The Pew Research Center for People & the Press put out its annual survey in September of how and where Americans get their news.

The Pew Research Center for People & the Press put out its annual survey in September of how and where Americans get their news. For those in PR, it was a Rorschach test: you could see anything you wanted in the data.

Those convinced that online is the future could point to the finding that the percentage of those looking at online news had overtaken the percentage of those reading newspapers. Television proponents could crow that the news audience has held steady for well over a decade.

And those who value traditional journalism can take comfort in the fact that 34% of those poring over the professional content on The New York Times website are less than 30 years old -- despite the fact that the demographic makes up less than 24% of the population.

People are consuming more information than ever before, and they are consuming it in more formats. How do professional communicators deal with that? Right now, there is plenty of effort to deal with it by name-calling. Digital proponents throw around words like "dinosaur" when talking about traditional media. On the other side, digital content gets panned as shallow. What communication needs are integrated offerings that cover all of those bases, from The Washington Post to CNN.com to Wikipedia to Huffington Post.

PR in 2010 is not about having one "web guru" whose job it is to spout platitudes about Twitter. It's not about having one "media guy" with The Wall Street Journal on speed dial. It's not about clips or hits or "friends." It's not even about having a team in place that can cover all of the different media that Pew shows we're plugged into, although that's a good start.

Now, it's about making sure that the right messages are getting out through the right channels to achieve solid business goals: better sales, improved customer service and reputation, higher share price, or strong employee morale and retention.

It's important to have traditional agency account management staff working next to web designers and online insights and analytics gurus who, in turn, are brainstorming with digital media experts. Why? Because if there is one thing that Pew makes clear, it's that the future isn't going to belong to any one platform or format or approach.

Jim Weiss is chairman and CEO of WCG.

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