When I wrote on this blog a few weeks ago about the fact that public relations people are woefully slow (or maybe fearful) at learning and developing expertise about latest developments in today’s online world, including even the basics of blogging, a fellow on the digital team of one major PR agency objected.
He said that his agency, supported by its CEO, had a whole team of people devoted to online communications. Yet, the team only represented about six (6) percent of the people working at the agency, worldwide. Unfortunately, that’s about par for the PR industry, which has been shockingly slow to learn the strategic tools, methods, techniques, trends and protocols of how to use the Internet for effective communications.
It’s hard not to be a bit jaded about what isn’t happening in the PR industry. In my consulting and speaking, I have a perspective beyond NYC and DC and other such places. What I am seeing are agencies still leaning heavily on old ideas, old approaches and old tactics, and incapable of guiding clients through the maze of the digital revolution. On the other side, I see purely digital agencies that disdain anything that’s more traditional, practical and effective. As a result, it’s a sort of arrogant or stubborn standoff. At the same time, it’s rare to see agencies and PR people who have the depth of experience to comprehend the whole picture, traditional and online, in order to deliver solid solutions.
PR people use email, and lean too much on expensive (and useless) online services to indiscriminately mass distribute press releases, yet many – if not most – are not capable of responsibly advising clients on the aspects of using blogs and online social media together with more traditional forms of communications.
In recent months, we have heard examples of PR people either faking their online knowledge or simply falling back to embrace old-school tactics. It’s an odd phenomenon but true, and it is something that impedes the power and influence of public relations as an industry at a critical time when PR should rise as the best tool in an organization’s marketing arsenal.
PR agencies and professionals should be out front, leading the charge. But, that’s not the case. Most remain about as obsolete and out-of-touch about the digital revolution as the newspaper business.