Am I the only PR professional having a crisis these days? The world of newspapers, magazines, and television – the world that I have spent years reading, watching, and pitching to – is nearly dead. Bloggers, Twitterers, LinkedIners, Flickrers, and YouTubers are the media now. The role that my PR colleagues and I have played in media relations is completely upended.
It is, on one level, a change only in the tools I must use to do my job. I have plunged in with a convert's fervor. I joined LinkedIn and Facebook. I subscribed to a few blogs. I opened a Twitter account. I even posted videos of the family dog on YouTube. In short, I embraced these new languages to understand how I might apply them to my work.
But the crisis is not about the new tools PR pros can use. It stems from a deeper place. Under the old model, my role was in the background. I owned PR strategy, planning, and execution, but my role was as an intermediary. The reporters wanted to speak with my executives, not with me, and I wanted to provide these executives with the exposure the media provided. The goal was to get the story, but never to be the story.
New media platforms change that model. The content and content providers have now merged. In the new age of media relations, the PR professional must step out in front and demonstrate the intelligence and editorial judgment to earn a following of his or her own. This is a profound change in the definition of a PR pro's role, and one that requires a new self image to accompany the new set of communication skills.
When all it takes is a few keystrokes to send content or information globally, those of us in PR must begin to place our own signature to the content that we provide. The best at doing this will develop a loyal following, and will count on those followers to carry messages throughout cyberspace. Richard Edelman's blog is a great model for those who work at PR agencies, but does not really shine a light for those, like myself, who work in-house at corporations or nonprofits. Will “retweets” become our new version of clip counts?
A shift of this magnitude cannot be easy or clean. Many will make the transition, while some will not. Eventually, new technologies will emerge to shake up the landscape yet again. However, one change is irreversible: PR professionals no longer have the luxury of anonymity.
Matt Broder is VP of external communications at Pitney Bowes.