Modern PR: The Next Wave

Whether you call it PR 2.0, New PR, or some other catchy moniker, it’s clear that public relations is moving into a new age. As we’ve noted, Modern PR means evolving, adapting and embracing new challenges. At the forefront of this evolution is PR’s incorporation of a more conversational approach to communications, made possible – and necessary – by social media.

Though it’s a common mistake in PR today, we should not look at social media as simply a new set of tools. It’s not just an emerging channel for pushing your same old messages, or a new medium to exploit with “viral marketing” campaigns. In fact, thinking in terms of “social media campaigns” misses the point entirely. Social media ushers in the era of two-way communications , and we must respond by entering the next wave of PR practice.

In essence, the next wave of PR is just the latest evolution in doing what PR has always done:  communicate, using the best methods at our disposal. As our focus moves away from one overly dominated by media relations, we now must look at employing all the methods available for communicating with the people who make up our publics. We must no longer think in terms of “hits,” audiences, and eyeballs, but instead create and participate in conversations and community.

But let’s be clear: the days of PR exerting at least some control over all of the public expressions regarding a company are over. Finito. Someone play Taps. Today, no one “owns” the message – an organization’s positioning is created organically as the result of its actions and the conversation around it. For example, if a company is saying things that clearly differ from reality, the crowd will set it straight. The people formerly known as the audience are no longer passive, and the time to recognize the affect on PR is now.

Such a shifting of the sands can feel very frightening and discombobulating to PR professionals, especially those of us who came along at a time when “control the message” was a mantra. But rather than fear the change, we should see that the next wave of PR actually presents unique opportunities for us and the organizations we represent.

The Next Wave and the Solo PR Pro
In the same way that one shouldn’t dabble in media relations, neither should you pretend to be social media savvy if you’re not. If you’re just getting started, the key is to start by listening. Join and participate in social media networks as an individual, long before you start interacting on behalf of clients.

The good news is that as consultants, we are already well-versed at being chameleon-like. Listening first, so we can fit into a new culture, is second nature to those of us who work in varied industries with a number of different organizations. Staying abreast of the latest theories from thought leaders by reading blogs and participating in conversations is critical as we all continue to learn and expand our understanding of what it means to do PR today.

The potential rewards for this effort are vast. Not only is PR as a whole changing, but confused organizations are hungry for savvy communications assistance, and who better to shepherd organizations into this unfamiliar communications territory than PR? And with in-house PR teams increasingly lean and strapped for time, who better to serve this role than an independent practitioner?

As outside consultants, we offer an excellent alternative for organizations currently locked in political battles over who should handle these initiatives. We’re also blissfully free of the social media site bans that large IT departments often put in place. Invest the time needed to become educated about the next wave, and then you can step up and take your rightful place as a PR consultant who leads rather than follows.

Obviously, the evolving PR landscape is an area we’ll continue to explore on this blog moving forward. What do you think? Are you seeing more consulting opportunities as a result of the changes? Are your clients thinking about these issues, or are they still in avoidance mode?

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More from the Modern PR series:

Photo credit: colmsurf

  • Kellye, You hit the nail on the head with “listening first”. Communicators have to listen in order to respond, advise, counsel, be proactive, etc.

    Susan’s last blog post..Cascarones

  • Not sure which I love best. The wave pic/analogy or that you used the term “discombobulating”. That is just one of my favorite words (my Mom uses it all the time), but the wave really is a great way to explain the constant change and adaption needed in PR.

    I’ve taken surfing lessons twice, and both times I saw how you had to move differently and quickly each time you went for a wave. It’s moving on it’s own path, and you have to figure out how to “read” or listen to it so you can stay on top of it. You aren’t going to change the path or speed of the wave, so you better pay attention and quickly figure out how you’re going to ride it.

    Awesome post, Kellye.

    Jen Wilbur’s last blog post..rockstarjen: honored to be part of @dmullen’s Twitter Starter Pack. Check it out to see the other folks you REALLY should follow: http://bit.ly/5cjNI

  • Kellye Crane

    Susan and Jen- Thanks for your input — glad the analogy rang true to you. Jen, like your surfing experiences, I think PR pros are in for an exhilarating ride!