We are entering the most exciting, but also most frightening, time in modern marketing and PR.
The old rules are being ripped up and a revolution is coursing through the worlds of media and communication. Traditional skills are still relevant and valued, but they have to be applied in a new environment that is constantly changing exponentially.
The modern communications pro needs to bring a completely fresh set of skills to the table, whether they are working in-house or on the agency side. And if they don't have these skills as an intrinsic part of their DNA they must learn them quickly and understand how they can be employed most effectively.
Those who think social media is a flash in the pan that will burn brightly and fade away just as quickly are going to be sorely disappointed. For an increasing number of people it's not digital media or social media, it's not even media – it's just the way things are and the way they communicate and access content; it doesn't need defining with a descriptor.
It's a world currently dominated by Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, Tumblr, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. But new channels such as Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Path, Reddit, and Thumb are rising fast in popularity. There are no doubt a whole new group of apps taking hold amongst those who set new trends and are in touch with the zeitgeist.
And each of these channels is in a state of permanent flux, changing their modus operandi constantly. Just in the last week, for example, Facebook brought in new rules about allowing teens to share posts, Twitter enabled direct messaging of followers, Google introduced a function that means user pictures will feature in ads, and Yahoo redesigned its mail service.
It's difficult for the modern PR and marketing professional to keep up, but it is vital they do so to ensure their communications strategy is fit for purpose and taking advantage of the new engagement opportunities on offer.
Their questions will be many.
Is Facebook still relevant? Well, a potential global audience of 1.2 billion is not one that any communicator or marketer can afford to ignore. And look at the way new media outlets such as BuzzFeed have used Facebook sharing to build their business, rather than relying on Twitter.
Should marketers use Reddit? Well, it's a vicious, shark-infested pool, but an incredibly influential and contemporaneous environment that should at least be monitored closely so you know what is being said about your brand or corporation, even if you choose not to engage directly with it.
Is print and mainstream media dead in all this? Well, the value of a piece in The New York Times or a slot on Morning Joe is still worth its weight in gold, but it will be supercharged through mobile and social and exploited in new integrated ways.
In truth, nobody knows the answers to all the questions anymore. By combining core established communications skills with the exciting opportunities out there, a new world of transparent interaction and storytelling is in our grasp that will subsume all that came before it in terms of effectiveness and engagement.
But the meek need not apply. It's time to get out of the comfort zone, be brave, and embrace all that these new channels have to offer. It's time to take a few risks and try things out.