Paul Holmes 01 Nov 2010 // 10:35AM GMT
So when it comes to social media, is public relations leading or getting left behind? We were presented with two starkly divergent views this week from two industry leaders. At Hill & Knowlton’s Collective Conversation blog, Marylee Sachs sounded a warning that PR could be headed for its own “perfect storm.” Returning from the ANA, PRSA and Council of PR Firms conferences, Sachs warned that marketers were calling on PR firms to step up to meet the challenges presented by new media and new consumer expectations , and quoted CMOs from P&G, IKEA and Heineken expressing their disappointment at the reluctance or inability of PR firms to contribute big brand ideas. “We’re clearly missing a trick here,” says Sachs. “If this is PR’s time, as Pritchard reflected, why aren’t we stepping up?” But while Sachs is gloomy, Harris Diamond—head of IPG’s constituency management group—sounded positively ebullient in discussing the performance of the company’s public relations operations so far this year, telling The Holmes Report that: “We are seeing a much greater acceptance and understanding by CMOs of the kind of services we provide. They are really beginning to see the value of what we do, whether it is social media or content creation or even more traditional public relations. There’s no question we are getting a bigger slice of the overall wallet.” Normally, I’d be inclined to agree with Sachs. Twenty-five years writing about this business have led me to the conclusion that there is no opportunity so vast that PR agencies cannot contrive a way to screw it up. But my own experience—and my own conversations with CMOs—lead me to believe that Diamond is right: that most PR agencies have seized the opportunity presented by a changing marketing landscape and that most CMOs understand the unique skills (transparency, authenticity, credibility, engagement, dialogue) that PR brings to the table. Still, this is one of those areas in which it would be nice to have some empirical data—rather than just anecdotal evidence. Because the stakes are extraordinarily high, and if Sachs is right, PR firms are about to miss the opportunity of a lifetime.