Once predictable, goings-on in PR are a bastion of change

Awards season starts soon, with the March 11th PRWeek Awards dinner in New York.

Awards season starts soon, with the March 11th PRWeek Awards dinner in New York. The best campaigns, people, and companies come to be honored and to celebrate the profession.

I sometimes wish we could run a parallel awards program to adjudicate the PR trends that show us how much has changed in our world, which once seemed so predictable, not to say dull. The economic downturn and the social media stampede have combined to create fissures in the bedrock underpinning much of what we think about PR careers, agencies, in-house teams, and strategy.

One reason is social media is enabling a new level of connectivity within the PR industry, just as it has unleashed a whole new approach for brands and companies. For example, Ogilvy's digital guru John Bell has followers in Iceland, Brazil, India, to name a few, and from the most senior and most junior echelons of the industry.

But Bell is also following a similarly eclectic community within and beyond PR. Bell is not unique in this, as other industry leaders have followed suit in embracing the true purpose of social networking and are not gathering all their perspectives from one place. I would give Bell and that ilk the "Walking the Talk" award.

The "Second Act" award would also be shared by multiple recipients, including Mark Hass, former MS&L CEO and now head of China for Edelman, as Ogilvy's new CEO once held that spot in his firm. Bob Pearson, late of Dell and Novartis, is now at WeissComm, and Valerie DiMaria left corporate life at Willis Group Holdings, and formerly Motorola, to join Peppercom.

A career in PR need not follow a prescribed route now. Corporates going to agencies is nothing new, but smaller, even specialized types of firms are more routinely attracting them, as evidenced by WeissComm and Peppercom. China is still a frontier for most firms, and its potential - and challenges - will po- tentially draw more of the US brain trust - and give back to it.

My final award, dubbed "The Kimono," would go to all the companies that are not just passively observing the changing PR world, but are taking part in the conversation that is helping to shape it. The teams of Coke and Pepsi share in this drive, as does Deloitte, Best Buy, CA, and The Home Depot, and many others. Even in the most competitive environment in living memory, the profession has never been more open. Long may that trend continue.

Julia Hood is the publishing director of PRWeek. She can be contacted at julia.hood@prweek.com.

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