HARD COMMERCIAL EDGE OF PR 1996: CONFERENCE REPORT; Adapt to brave new world or die out, says Gummer

PR agencies and professionals must adapt to the coming electronic age or die, Peter Gummer, chairman of Shandwick plc, told the conference in Westminster this week. Gummer predicted the entire landscape of communications would be unrecognisable in 40 years time with ‘virtual’ corporations and Internet-based consumer groups.

PR agencies and professionals must adapt to the coming electronic age or

die, Peter Gummer, chairman of Shandwick plc, told the conference in

Westminster this week.

Gummer predicted the entire landscape of communications would be

unrecognisable in 40 years time with ‘virtual’ corporations and

Internet-based consumer groups.



This, combined with the demise of mass media and mass communications,

will transform - and possibly undermine - the distinct role of the PR

professional and agencies, Gummer told delegates.



‘Mass media is inefficient, one-way, and poorly targeted and will be

replaced by narrow media which will engage people taking part in a

personalised process,’ he said.



However, he warned the new communications landscape would weaken the

‘gate keeper’ role of PR executives and media professionals as clients

increasingly develop electronic communications directly with consumers.



It would also carry threats for the companies themselves. ‘The Internet

will organise consumer groups which will change the way we act. These

organisations will decide what companies we will buy from, and those we

boycott,’ he said.



He also claimed the role of the client as the initiator of news will be

harder to sustain. ‘We now have clients who are at the centre of the

news they disseminate. In the new world, events will happen to clients,

in real time,’ he said.



Gummer predicted that PR executives and agencies may reject offices and

work from home, working more seamlessly with clients on developing

relationships with narrow consumer groups through electronic media.



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