The Real Opportunity for the Evolved PR Agency

Jeremiah Owyang has stirred up the debate on what PR agencies need to do in order to survive in the future following the Horn Group’s recent event titled “Is Social Media Killing PR?”  He offers a variety of different options ranging from becoming a social media filter for clients to moving into a wider range of marketing disciplines to help fixing the agencies’ own reputations, which are often much worse than that of the clients.

Charles Cooper over at CNET also chimed in, saying that “PR is killing PR?”  He states that social media isn’t really playing as big a role as empty messaging and weak products/services that are being pushed by PR.  He doesn’t outline an opportunity out of all this except to suggest that if PR goes back to doing the fundamentals of their business better than maybe there will be more success.

Although Owyang touches on it, neither of these points of view go back to the original definition of PR, which is the greatest opportunity that social media has opened for PR agencies.  It’s pretty simple, PR agencies need to teach companies how to RELATE to the PUBLIC using these new channels.  Your grandma probably doesn’t know how to talk to people on social networks and neither do these big brands.

It’s obviously more complicated than just being an individual with few or any stakeholders.  The way a major company handles itself online has major repercussions but that’s the main reason there is an opportunity for experts.

This isn’t just social networks and Twitter either.  PR agencies should be taking over online pressrooms and how the company tells their corporate story through their Web site.  Like I say in most of my new business pitches against bigger badder agencies, your ad agencies can push content and your interactive agency can find new ways to engage people but it’s your PR agency that you’ve always trusted to manage your most important relationships.  Sure, it’s a sales line but there’s some truth in it.

Then, of course, there is the fake New York Times, which predicted the end of PR, as well as the Iraq War.  The prank was trying to show how the world gets better by July 2009, and the demise of PR is part of that Utopia.  Maybe Jeremiah was right, PR should focus on its own reputation too.