No shortage of advice for PR industry
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

No shortage of advice for PR industry

Paul Holmes

This instalment of Radar finds no shortage of advice for the PR industry. Forrester’s Darika Ahrens believes, unsurprisingly, that PR firms must adapt or die. (Personally, I believe that headline writers should “adapt or die.”) For PR firms themselves, most of the arguments presented in the piece are familiar, covering such areas as digital skills, SEO and declining demand for traditional PR. There is an interesting observation that much of what passes for digital PR - community management - is likely to migrate in-house, leaving agencies at an obvious disadvantage. And the conclusion that PR firms must improve their search skills is correct. But the idea that “search marketing is not being integrated into any PR agency offerings” is simply untrue, and lends the piece a slight air of unreality. A little more perplexing is Forbes blogger Haydn Shaughnessy’s polemic on what PR companies are doing wrong. Shaughnessy thinks the PR industry should forget about the idea that it exists to improve stakeholder relationships, because most firms still assume they are part of “corporate broadcasting”. “PR practice has barely changed in the age of social”, argues Shaughnessy, and consists of finding writers to write about their clients. It is hard to take an argument like this seriously. There is more merit to Shaughnessy’s concerns regarding “mutually beneficial” relationships, but many PR people will disagree that such a goal is unattainable. While neither of these articles are especially unhelpful, they demonstrate the considerable variance that exists regarding perceptions of the PR industry. That must be of some concern as PR firms attempt to adopt a more strategic role in an era of increasing transparency and declining trust.
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