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Thus spake Edelman: the future of PR is blogs

There's an ugly mood toward "A-list" bloggers welling up in among PR blogging types, a sense that some people are a little too pleased with themselves, a little too self-referential and incestuous.


I don't really have any feelings either way, but it’s a good online spectator sport between posts discussing things that matter more. Keep it up everyone.


One blogger who doesn’t need to worry whether he's an A-lister or not, because people will listen to him anyway, is Richard Edelman, head of the mighty, eponymous PR firm. (Full disclosure: I have a friend who works in its London office, but that's not enough reason for me to say nice things about it.)


Never one to miss a trusted PR trick, Mr Edelman's beaten the rush for posts and articles on the theme of 2005:That Was The Year That Was and PR & Media Predictions for 2006. Have a look at the original post here.


In summary the key trends in 2005 he picks out are:


  • Follow the money: cash is continuing to flow away from print and into online media as readerships of paper media continues to fall.
  • 15 second online video ads: the "hottest genre of Web advertising".
  • An expected explosion of DVRs (digital video recorders that can skip ads) in the next five years in the US.
  • Video on Demand and promo films in electronic programme guide menus.
  • Publishing companies moving to online subscription models and looking for new revenue streams (such as charging for podcasts).


In his tips for PR firms for 2006 he calls for PR companies to react and evolve to meet the new challenges and opportunities of the changing media landscape by:


1 Retraining its people

2 Recognizing the influence and credibility of blogs

3 Experimenting


He's right. Corporate communications and PR people need to expand and redefine their role in business and they need to start doing it now.


My take is that good PR people are best at content and connections:


  • Content creation (translating): eliciting and editing a mess of thoughts and corporate raw ideas and services into meaningful language and relevant (informative, entertaining) content.
  • Content aggregation: pulling together the stories that matter in an organisation.
  • Connecting: people, media channels, information.
  • Content distribution: taking the right content to the right people.


So a media market where content competes on its own merit should be a major opportunity for our clients and our for trade to evolve.


In the past PR has been dominated by the discipline of media relations, and by print media relations most of all - so the most important skills required beyond fundamental communication skills, have been an understanding of the media (with print: news rooms, features meetings and print deadlines), writing so you can create, craft or edit content to make it appropriate for print media, and images (photography, diagrams, cartoons, etc.) and project managing events.


In the future, then, PRs will need as a basic, to understand how all of the new and evolving channels of digital media (and non-digital, newspaper readers still have long lives ahead of them) work, to feel like native in those blog networks and know our way around, how people consume them in combinations (reading blogs and listening to the radio, anyone?) and how to create the right content to reach the right audiences.


My first flurry of predictions for 2006:


  • A deep understanding of web and connected media will be increasingly discussed as a desired core competency in PR (and more innovative agencies and in-house teams will start requiring it form their people).
  • PR teams will need to develop an understanding of how to create quality audio and video content as a core competency at least to the point where they can direct a project as competently as they currently handle an event, direct a photo shoot or manage a writing project.
  • Cross-media, integrated content creation strategy will become the the starting point for all PR campaigns, not just larger budget ones.
  • There will be a boom in content creation services (audio, video, web) catering specifically to PR campaigns. At the moment these are still unknown to a lot of PRs and priced too highly when you consider that editing and production technologies have come down in price so much (cheaper technology in these areas will mean more people acquire the skills anyway, lowering the price still further).
  • There will be some Cillit-isms (def: connected media marketing gaffes) even more cringe-worthy than the original, infamous Cillit Bang / plasticbag.org incident. We should brace ourselves and perhaps be ready not to be too judgemental - there are going to be some mistakes as everybody learns (makes up?) the new rules of the game.
  • Agencies that stick too closely to media relations as their core discipline, ignoring wider opportunities, will become niche players, will begin to lose pitches because they can't handle the complete media mix.


Well, this is fun. I think I'll come back to predictions for 2006 and "the new PR", as Neville Hobson is fond of calling it, later…


Meanwhile, please feel free to argue, rubbish my soothsaying generally mix it up int he comments section. It's nearly Christmas, after all.


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Sage words indeed.

There are strong paralells with the adverstising industry's efforts to come to terms with what digital/the net/PVRs have done to the traditional push-based advertising model. This has been playing out for at least the last 5 years.

At a structural level we have seen ad agencies set up in-house "new media" departments, acquire young "new media" agencies tooffer a group approach and (least commonly of all) re-train large numbers of their existing employees (there is a fourth option - ignore it and hope it goes away)

I guess that the PR industry has the same 4 strategic choices.

If I were a young entrepreneur I would set up a blog only PR agency, build it up and sell it to Sorrell in three years time as the panic really starts to set in.

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