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Will PR Firms Survive The New Media Avalanche?

The new PR game will be played by rock star bloggers on brand new platforms and distribution channels such as Ulitzer

http://twitter.com/fuatkircaali

Last week I received an email from Lindsey Miller at Ragan Communications. I answered her questions for a story she was working on here.

The following is the full text of my reply to her on this subject.

What kinds of PR firm will survive the "fast-approaching new media avalanche"? What steps will firms have to take to ensure that they make it through?

I know a lot of PR firms that are chasing new accounts among publicly traded companies, which are seen as cash cows in the business. I also know a lot of firms whose sales teams are larger than their senior account staff which will actually get the job done. These firms have armies of new college-grad telemarketers spitting out press releases to the media.

For a while you can get away with both approaches. Once the laws, rules and regulations change, the first group of PR firms will disappear overnight as I mentioned in my original blog entry here.

The demise of the second group of firms will come from the social media freight train. PR firms need to catch up with the change.

What will the "new" PR companies look like?

The new PR companies won't be putting out press releases and won't be in the press release business. The PR firm of the future will employ professional bloggers who will use social media tools to get their message into the hands of their targeted audience. The press release business already belongs to the Stone Age. The new PR game will be played by rock star bloggers on brand new platforms and distribution channels such as Ulitzer.

If the rules change for publicly traded companies, will PR firms have more of a chance at surviving?

No

Why do you think social media is so damaging for PR firms? Can't it be helpful as well?

It can be very helpful indeed. But change is painful. As I mentioned in my blog prompting this conversation, the topic goes back to the saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." A large number of PR companies are still living in the Stone Age. Again as I said, I've had exchanges with owners of well-known PR companies who don't even know the basic mechanics of the Internet. How will these people and companies adjust to the change? They haven't a chance. If you can't see the future already, what are your chances to lead the future? None.

Can you give any examples of PR firms who are doing things right already?

I don't know of any PR firm that's waving the flag of the change that we are living through. IMHO all of the existing PR companies are challenged by what's coming up. I don't think there's one company out there that's thrilled to see what's going on. They used to be kings five years ago. Will they be around in another five years? I don't know.

How do you imagine the new social media platforms that you talk about that don't exist yet will work?

Good question. Blogs are relatively new, if you consider the mass of the population. At a cocktail party less than a year ago someone I was talking to from the financial industry (a stockbroker) told me, "You know there is something called a ‘blog' and people who write blogs are called bloggers?" I said yes I know.


Job titles from the future: Steve Adubato "Politcal Analyst & CBS2 Blogger"

Today, the mass of the population knows "blogging" as their Facebook pages, and 99.99% of the blogs being written are never read by anyone except the blogger's family and friends.

This means two things. Not everyone has to write a book, sing, or blog. The ones who have something to say in their blogs will evolve into more professional platforms. The social media platforms that do not exist today will be created to serve the professional community of writers and bloggers.

When radio was invented, it was like the Internet - anyone could talk into a microphone and have their voice heard by the neighbors who owned a radio device. We'll see the consolidation of content on the Internet. The new media platforms will clean out the garbage and the noise and display useful content.

The challenge for PR companies is try to stay above the trash filter with what they produce as content. I can't imagine anyone's favorite pastime is reading press releases. Companies that keep PR firms occupied will also move on to tools and platforms that stay above the Internet's trash filters.

This doesn't mean spamming the world on Twitter, Facebook or whatever. Today's social media tools serve a purpose today and will fade away as things evolve.

Can you think of any examples of sophisticated social media initiatives that companies are pursuing with the currently available social media tools? Is it a waste of time to get involved now?

I don't think it's waste of time or energy. It will turn Facebook or Twitter into a pure spam machine sooner rather than later. If your message isn't interesting, who cares if you Tweet your heart out all day or write graffiti on people's Facebook walls?

Do you believe there's still a need for PR? What about the other functions PR serves, such as crisis communications? Who will handle that?

Sure there will always be need for PR. My point is, if you take the bulk of activities that make up today's PR, a big chunk of the revenue-generating tasks will go away. I don't know what you call the rest; crisis communications is one you mentioned.

Do you have any responses to the comments that appeared below your original post?

We approved all feedback to my post with no edits. I read them all. My comment is: I am not against PR firms. All I'm saying is watch out, there's a big freight train coming.

http://twitter.com/fuatkircaali

More Stories By Fuat Kircaali

Fuat Kircaali is the founder and chairman of SYS-CON Media, Cloud Expo, Inc. and Ulitzer, Inc.

Kircaali came to the United States from Zurich University, Switzerland in 1984 while studying for his PhD, to design computer systems for SH-2G submarine hunter helicopters for the U.S. Navy. He later worked at IBM's IS&CG Headquarters as a market research analyst under Mike Armstrong's leadership, an IBM executive who later ran IBM Europe and AT&T; and Fuat was the Director of Information Systems for UWCC, reporting to CEO Steve Silk (later Hebrew National CEO), one of the top marketing geniuses of the past two decades.

Kircaali founded SYS-CON Media in 1994, a privately held tech media company with sales exceeding $100 million. SYS-CON Media was listed twice by Inc 500 and Deloitte and Touche as one of the fastest-growing companies in North America. Kircaali launched Ulitzer, Inc., a revolutionary "new media" start-up in mid 2009.

Fuat completed Bogazici University Business Administration program in 1982 with a Bachelor's Degree. He was one of 50 students accepted to the program out of over 1 million high school graduates that year.

http://twitter.com/fuatkircaali

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Most Recent Comments
Loraine Antrim 06/19/09 10:25:00 AM EDT

This seems to be a continuation of some of the concepts raised in "Is the PR Business Extinct?" post. And to your point, Fuat, there will be a shoot-out at the PR corral with not everyone surviving.

However, some PR agencies that are small and nimble, with a GenY mindset, are already thriving and gaining ground. Some are creating practices exclusively around social media and are developing and influencing relationships with key bloggers.

Many larger PR firms also have jumped on board the social media train, and have actually been leading the charge through their own blogging efforts, but because they are huge global enterprises, it is harder to have "the social media mindset" permeate throughout their organizations. Pockets and silos, but perhaps not an organization-wide commitment.

I'll put my money on the smaller more agile PR firms who are already creating a presence and influencing the blogosphere and twittersphere. When the avalanche clears out, they will be the ones who walk away as major players. Loraine Antrim

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