A meme was kicked off over the last 24 hours by Robert Scoble about whether companies still need formal PR staff or agencies. His gist, is that great technology/products will be found and evangelized by users. His example is that a beta tester told him about a cool product. He then asked his contacts on Twitter who responded enthusiastically and stated that:
“If you are exciting your early users like this you will get found. I so wish more companies built their stuff this way. Go slowly. Build PR by building a great service and turn your users into your PR agents. Oh, yeah, and blog and podcast about it to get to this point (but look at how they built a community, they didn’t get all “pushy” about what they were doing — they just were informative and inclusive).”
Many, many folks have chimed in. From the PR blog perspective, check out what Peter Himler had to say, “Are journalists discovering that PR people are expendable? Will the crowd ultimately displace the PR pro as the trusted primary (or even secondary) source for story ideas? What, if any, industries will be immune from this trend?”
So what then for PR? If this is a universal truth – and I am not sure that it is – does it make us obsolete? If we don’t adapt, yessir. PR Week Publishing Director Julia Hood and I recently discussed about this during our New Media Summit in Chicago. She said, and I agree, that pitching is broken.
We have to stop spamming people and make sure that companies and products are easy and a joy to discover. That’s no easy feat. Further, it means giving up control. However, in a Google age where self-discovery rules, it’s becoming a must.”
Then there’s an outstanding perspective by Mark Hopkins of Mashable where he says the future is where many good PR people have always viewed themselves, as connectors, as resources for reporters and for clients.
My take is that the career I have chosen (I majored in Communication with a PR emphasis) and worked in for 13 years now is changing. But that’s nothing new. It was changing when I started. Email was relatively new as a PR tool, and faxes were still widely used. Technology changed. PR people changed. PR tactics changed. So, we need to change (this is sounding suspiciously like the speech at the end of Rocky IV at this point). I prefer to think of a quote from the end of Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy livin’ or get busy diein’.” Sorry folks, I think PR is going to live.
I’m going to end with a quote from a blog in June 2006:
“One of the little secrets I’ve learned is that PR people play a much bigger role in life than geeks often give them credit for. They are major influencers who help shape what story gets written about you. If you write them off or treat them badly, they’ll get negative stories written about you.”
That quote is from the start of a post by Robert Scoble, who kicked off this whole kerfuffle.
PS – While writing this I received a note on Twitter from someone saying they had tried the product I recommended to them, and then passed on the word to friends on Plurk. Guess there’s still a need for PR people. Phew!