…Or at least I hope that’s the case.
Public relations is a business in a state of change. When the Internet emerged as a force roughly ten years ago, I suspect that PR practitioners were wondering what the future would hold for them. Since that time, the ‘net has boomed, busted, and recently re-emerged, yet PR practitioners as a whole aren’t ready for the new media that we call “social media”.
How come? For starters, most PR practitioners don’t have time to learn new things. This is probably true of every industry: you’re so busy trying to catch up on yesterday’s work that you can’t even begin to think about what tomorrow will bring. It’s no different for PR, as we’re talking about an industry that hasn’t changed a whole lot historically.
Another reason PR professionals aren’t catching on with social media: nobody is teaching them! Personally, this is my biggest issue. Working in my office, everyone is expected to “get it” but nobody takes the time to teach anyone what “it” is. No matter how much everyone else talks about, unless you sit down with some people and show them exactly what this Technorati thing is, or how to sign up for a del.icio.us or Bloglines account, they will never even begin to understand what everyone is talking about.
Another group who aren’t jumping on the social media bandwagon in PR are the skeptics. I appreciate the skeptics because without them this would be one big love-in. I find there are two kinds of skeptics though: those who have a clue and those who don’t. Those who have a clue are the intelligent people who check things out, formulate an opinion based on facts and experience, and voice it. Those who don’t have a clue are the ones who use sweeping generalizations and make wild assumptions without any tangible evidence, facts, or even much thought. Clearly, one is more important than the other as we move forward as an industry.
I grew up in front of a computer screen, whereas some of those who have been in this business for decades are still learning basic computer skills. Personal computers have been around for a very long time in the workplace, which makes me wonder why most people haven’t figured out how to get their Google through the tubes. But like those who don’t understand social media, they were probably given a PC and expected to figure it out on their own.
The technological gap is huge. While I may be listening to the two premier PR-industry podcasts, For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report or Inside PR, there are thousands of other PR practitioners who aren’t listening, or aren’t aware of the podcasts themselves, or aren’t even aware of what a podcast is. There is so much to learn from these two shows and many others like them. If I were to walk into a PR firm today and announce that two leading PR professionals were going to have a chat in their boardroom about current happenings in PR, I’m sure many, if not all, would attend. Call it a podcast and you lose over 99% of the audience. Frustrating? Absolutely!
The PR community online is still growing. According to our official scorekeeper Constantin Basturea, the community almost doubled in 2006 to 630. Terrific, right? One would hope that with more PR blogs, the industry would be increasing it’s awareness of social media. More PR bloggers means more individuals telling their friends and colleagues, “Check out my blog.” Sadly, the second most-trafficked PR blogs is the self-appointed potty-mouthed ombudswoman of the PR community, Strumpette. Even when we do good, the bad stuff seems to stand out above the rest.
Here’s hoping that 2007 will be a year where PR practitioners lend each other a hand and we can all come to understand social media a little bit better.
Chris Clarke works at Thornley Fallis, a PR firm in Toronto, Canada. He also blogs at Student PR about public relations and social media.