Unless you live under a rock, you probably noticed the hundreds of "list" articles over the last two weeks remembering all things 2009 and the past decade from fashion to quotes, to lists of lists, and even some cool videos. As much as we all love these articles, I didn't see anything for my PR/marketing colleagues out there as a reminder of all the things and events that changed our profession. So here's my short list of what I believe changed PR in the past decade:
The Social Media Revolution
We all know what a little thing called social media did for people around the world, but for PR and Marketing pros, it was instrumental in helping us to cut the fat and listen to our audiences. Sites like Facebook and Twitter stress pithiness in our pitches and allow us to geo-target our audiences. In addition, when the FCC called out disclosures for promoting clients and companies on social media sites, we all became a little more interested in the truth. I could go on for ages about how social media has changed PR but I also think it’s very important to note the effect that it had for some agencies and companies in the creation of new job roles and departments. Agencies began hiring social media experts (shiver) and directors. In the end, I think it's crucial that we all know and understand social media. We don’t ask interviewees if they are proficient in newspapers, do we?
The Economic Crisis
In the financial services industry (one of the hardest hit by the crisis), many PR pros coped with limited or no PR budgets. The PR teams that survived were forced to focus on smaller projects that would be sure to show ROI and not just fabulous events and excursions. But even for clients not in financial services, budgets were limited and PR/marketing folks were faced with difficult challenges.
The start of declining newsrooms happened earlier in the decade with the emergence of online news sites but the effects were felt in 2009 as shrinking newsrooms forced PR pros to look for alternative ways (i.e. pitches via Twitter) to grab the attention of the press. In-person meetings turned into 10-minute phone calls and eventually into email Q and As. But has this made us better story tellers and given us a keener eye? Only time with tell.
The Accidental Entrepreneur
For many people in PR, downsizing led to a growth in freelancers and start-up firms. Smaller firms have the ability to grow with their clients and in my opinion (but I may be biased), work harder to stay ahead of the competition. In addition, I believe PR entrepreneurs understand the challenges and travails of being a start-up and are therefore more in-tune than larger PR firms. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the rising economy, and together with clients, are rebuilding it one day at a time.
Democratization of Blogs
Its amazing how many mommy bloggers are really out there! Blogging has become so ubiquitous that even my group of foodie girlfriends has a blog talking about what we eat. In PR, blogging is a great way for young and old professionals to hone their writing skills. As communicators we should be reading and writing blogs because they are the ideal medium for sharing instant knowledge, information and experiences with all types of audiences. So blog on pros, blog on!
Death of the Fax Machine
This slow death technically started a while back but the fax seemed to completely fizzle towards the end of the decade cemented by the fact that not many reporters and newsrooms accept faxes any longer. PR pros may use them to get a signed contract every now and then, but with scanners, emails and even the eFax, you can send a document just as quickly and easily.
PR for PR
I’ve noticed over the last few years that more and more PR pros are stepping forward to talk to the press openly about their expertise. Typically, PR firms have little time to think about their own brand when they are busy promoting their clients. However, in a time when personal and company brand image means everything, PR pros are doing what they are good at and promoting their own brands and images to the press and through social media. What good is a PR firm if they can't do PR for themselves anyway!
This ends my list, but FULL DISCLOSURE, my PR career only spans about half of the past decade, so I know I've missed major events that changed PR and marketing like 9/11 and the Dot Com Bust. So, I’d like to encourage everyone to comment on this post by adding on the things I missed. As JFK said: "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
Happy New Decade!