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.