BC Business blog post: The death of PR?
In light of today’s BC Business article, I thought I’d add a few final thoughts.
Many thought I was saying that it’s the death of PR when I closed my firm in August.
What I said is that PR firms and practitioners have to evolve dramatically to meet the changing needs brought on by social media. Old PR strategies aren’t meeting clients’ needs (when I speak of clients I am referring to large scale campaigns, not one-off marketing strategies). Media, both traditional and online, and consumers expect to receive information at the speed of sound – 24 hours a day, at their convenience. Our industry needs to focus resources on connecting directly with the public more than ever before.
Social media engages enormous audiences in a short amount of time and perception becomes reality very quickly. Tweets and re-tweets can reach as many people instantly as some radio stations reach in a quarter hour. Companies need huge resources to react quickly and senior strategists to identify gaps and provide analysis. Full service PR firms (that use social media) now need a much bigger team to handle a crisis…and there are a lot of costs associated with a bigger size.
The issue clients have with social media is they don’t know how to measure it and they certainly are loathe to pay for it. Traditional PR tactics can be measured – albeit there is a lot of discussion on existing measurement standards – while social media measurement tools are cumbersome and are expensive. On top of it all it takes a lot of manpower to sift through the information flow.
Many corporations are unprepared for the onslaught of social media and have reservations about how to manage it properly. Unfortunately, some choose not to manage it at all because they don’t think they have the resources or the budget line for this new medium. Online comments can lack credibility or may be based on rumours – public companies won’t and can’t comment or speculate on rumours. On the flip side many companies overreact to online comments, overly compensating for small issues rather than saying “I am sorry you had a bad customer experience”.
In a crisis, CEOs are now required to be actors on YouTube – and they are often not trained or prepared for that the medium.
Look at the “fake” BP twitter site. Hijacking brands is a problem that is very difficult to fix. In my opinion, JetBlue did a fantastic job with their communications in responding to its flight attendant who made a dramatic job exit earlier this summer.
Today companies are dealing with exponentially bigger audiences than ever before. Everyone is a critic. We would need a team at least triple the size we have right now to handle speed of light information broadcast via non-traditional channels like blogs, Facebook, YouTube and USTREAM to name a few. We don’t have the luxury of concise well planned communications, and we certainly don’t have the luxury of waiting until the next day to address an issue.
How do you charge for social media in a crisis? And who wants to pay for something they can’t really wrap their head around? Not many companies are prepared to give an open budget to deal with these issues without having an understanding of what the cost will be. Tricky. But the more important question is what would it cost the brand if companies remain on the sidelines?
It’s not the death of PR but certainly a major shift in the way we need to think.
~ by Wilcox Group Team on September 3, 2010.