Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Six PR Predictions for 2006

Now that I’m back from vacation, I thought I would start 2006 with six predictions about the PR industry. Please understand that these are simply my thoughts and observations and do not have any serious academic research to back them up.

1. The Death of the Mid-Sized PR Agency - It is my prediction that over the coming decade we are going to see a slow death of the current mid-size, PR agency. This prediction is based on the fact that overhead costs associated with employee compensation have risen much faster than what clients are willing to pay each month in retainer. I believe that this will lead to three scenarios: the rise of more consultant style PR counsel; the merger/acquisition of mid-sized agencies by larger agencies; and the diversification of mid-sized agencies into other business units such as publishing.

2. Refocus on Two-Way Communication - Blogs, wikis, podcasts...all forms of communication that rely on two-way conversation rather than the one-way, "we'll feed you what you need to know" method traditionally employed by corporate America. PR departments are going to have to take this into account moving forward. No longer can a PR practitioner rely solely on newsletters, news releases and static web sites if they want to be successful. These traditional one-way forms of communication are going to be eclipsed by the stakeholder group's desire to interact with the company or organization.

3. Advertising’s Continued Morph into PR - It used to be that the role of advertising (essentially to sell product) and the role of PR (essentially to build image) were fairly distinct. That is becoming less and less the case, and I feel certain that this trend will continue. Ask most PR professionals if they have developed ads as part of comprehensive communication plans and they will tell you, "yes." That's because the line between these two fields has become increasingly blurred.

4. The Evolution of the News Release – I’ve heard arguments from both sides on this one. Is the news release dead? Is it as viable as ever? One thing is certain…the function of the news release has forever changed. Once viewed as a media pitching tool, the release has now been relegated to two main functions. One – informing stock holders about current events and announcements that can impact their bottom line. Two – serving as a source or historical document for media and internal audiences.

5. Experience vs. Performance – Okay, this one isn’t just about PR but is relevant. I’ve observed a shift in the past few years from rewarding employees based on experience to rewarding them based on performance. I have many young friends who manage professionals with more years experience. I can’t imagine this is going to change anytime soon. That’s not to say that experience isn’t valuable and often preferable. It’s just that experience alone won’t get you by anymore. You’ve got to show that you can get it done.

6. A Bunch of Flacks – As a PR professional, I hate being lumped under this term. However, what makes me madder is that there are people out there who are calling themselves PR professionals that are actually just flacks. How do you know the real from the fake? Ask these questions:

  • Does the PR dept. have the ear of the organization’s executive team?
  • Is the PR dept. playing the role of the organization’s conscience?
  • Is the PR dept. both TALKING to their stakeholder groups and LISTENING to them?
  • Is the PR dept. transmitting messages from stakeholder groups to the executive team?

I believe that the image of our industry has suffered tremendously due to the growing number of PR flacks and shrinking number of PR counselors. We need to either help educate the flacks or “cut the fat.”

So, there you have it, my observations and predictions for 2006. Enjoy.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Bob said...

Great list and great insight. I'll add one more:

#7 Trent Flood is recognized, deservedly, as the Chapter President of the Year at the FPRA state conference.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Trent Flood said...

Thanks, Bob!

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless FPRA comes up with a new rule that prohibits consecutive awards :o)

8:45 PM  
Anonymous wesley said...

Trent, I am a senior in public relations and your predictions for 2006 have been insightful. I will be graduating in 2006 so it is good to know what is going to be happening so I can prepare to get a job.

But I do have a couple questions about the predictions. My first question is: what is considered a mid-size PR agency? I think I would be able to recognize a large firm or a tiny firm, but a mid-sized I am not sure. I would like to know this because if your predictions are accurate then I may have to change jobs sooner than I would like. It could be a bad start to a career. It could cause change just when I was starting to feel comfortable with an agency. After the agency shuts down or merges I'd have to start all over again. It may not be all that bad. But I don't think that is how I want to start my career.

My second question is: What you say experience or performance is more important? I would think that is depends on the agency or organization. I think they are both important, but I wonder if the industry as a whole prefers one over the other.

I agree with the observation about two-way communication. For one of my classes they are teaching us how to blog. They feel that it is very important to be technologically savvy especially with blogging. I have just started blogging and hope to get better at it.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Trent Flood said...

Thanks, Wesley. I'll take a stab at answering your questions.

1. I don't have an exact number in mind. It would be easiest to explain large and small. When I say small I'm thinking a one or two person consulting business. Big firms usually have multiple offices and in the neighborhood of 50+ employees. Please keep in mind that this is a long-term prediction. I have worked at two mid-size firms and had a great experience at both. At this point in your career I wouldn't rule it out as an option.

2. What I have observed is that promotions and job offers used to be primarily based on experience. That is still important! However, more and more you are finding very talented individuals moving up faster than folks with more experience. I think this will actually improve the quality of work being produced by PR folks at all levels. We are going to have show results and not just years on the job. I would say experience and performance are of equal importance. Respect folks with time on their side, but don't be afraid to listen to younger professionals with good ideas.

Thanks for your questions/comments.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Carolyn said...

Trent, I have definitely found a niche as a one-woman PR firm handling PR and, yes, advertising for small companies/non-profits in my community. I have another 20 years or so left in this industry, I hope! -- I'd be curious to know your thoughts on blogging for local small businesses -- aren't blogs really for the more regional, state and/or national companies with staff member(s) large enough to manage the blog?

11:53 PM  
Blogger Trent Flood said...

Carolyn - You are a great example of one way the agency landscape is changing. The nice thing about being a one-person shop is how nimble you can be. Best of luck in that.

Regarding your question...I think it goes back to the basics. Who is your audience? Are there specific audience members that a small business could talk to through a blog? I work at the Metro Orlando EDC and we are working to launch a blog geared toward providing story ideas on Orlando's business community to the reporters we work with on a regular basis. Of course, this won't replace other media relations efforts, but should be a nice supplement. I would consider us a "small business" and this seemed to be a good fit with what we were already doing. Check it out at http://orlandoinnovators.blogspot.com.

Nothing is a silver bullet. I think PR folks at all size of businesses need to evaluate the medium, compare that to their stakeholder groups, and determine if blogging is a solution that can work for them. Check out my good friend Josh Hallet's site for more on this.

8:08 AM  

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