It’s the time of year when all good pundits dust off their crystal balls to predict what the coming year will bring. I have been looking on the Web to see what the PR gurus are offering as PR predictions, and there seems to be some consistency:
- More consolidation of PR agencies as big agencies gobble up smaller ones;
- Growth will return, although with a cautious optimism as the year starts out slowly for some; and most interesting
- The current boom in social media will morph into something more substantial and more sustainable.
Some PR pundits are predicting a social media gold rush as new social media players flood the market seeing attention, which could mean a boom for PR as well. Here’s Lou Hoffman’s prediction as cited in Media Bistro:
“Virtually every Ph.D. student who can say ‘algorithm’ and chew gum at the same time devotes their thesis to building a social media monitoring tool. Each is convinced he or she has cracked the code on the best way to capture every word, visual and action that transpires in this alternative universe called social media. These 500+ companies scamper to find a PR agency, creating a dotcom-like boom for the PR industry.” —Lou Hoffman, CEO, The Hoffman Agency
I believe that we will see the luster of social media start to dim as companies start looking to get more from social media branding. As David Mullen points out in his blog, Communications Catalyst, PR professionals will start to learn that the blog/Facebook/Twitter holy trinity is what he calls a “three-trick pony” for social media. PR professionals will have to go beyond the social media basics and dig deeper into their clients’ business and their brand to drive awareness and create value.
I agree with Mullen that if PR agencies don’t crack the code on social media soon, the emerging new media ad agencies are going to dominate here. I have already seen a number of agencies successfully step into the social media arena and offer very effective programs as an extension of pay-per-click and web marketing programs.
Once again, PR is going to have to demonstrate its real value to stay in the game in 2010. If you have been reading this blog, then you know that traditional media outlets like newspapers are either going under or struggling to survive, which means our role as media professionals has to evolve with the times. Mullen predicts that the lines between advertising and PR will start blurring. They are already are. In tough times, you have to be able to demonstrate that your communications program will add to your clients’ bottom line. Smart ad agencies and marketing agencies are creating programs that do just that, and they are using tactics like social media to do it. With the value of media relations increasingly in question, I see a turf war brewing between PR and other marketing and advertising agencies for client programs.
So it looks like old fashioned values are going to be new again. It’s up to smart PR people to take a hard look at their clients’ programs to identify where they can provide that deeper value that has a positive impact on sales. And they have to be able to show that value by measuring the results. We all will need to improve our game and remind ourselves the rules haven’t really changed with the New Year.