PR’s First True Revolution

An excerpt from the bestseller “The Global PR Revolution”

Is there something else in the history of the PR industry that could be deemed comparable to the current revolution caused by social media? Absolutely not. Today’s revolution is the first true revolution in the PR business since its inception.

That is indisputably so.

PR used always to be dependent on traditional media, as well as being dependable. The media in its classical form — already long known as traditional media, which continues to linger on today — existed long before PR, particularly in print media. Radio and television, the electronic media that came after the press, were constituted in the same fashion as print media

— they had different channels for delivering their messages.

Their messages might have even been different, but they were all one-way. No dialogue. This has entirely changed with social media, which has uplifted the quality of Web 1.0 to a whole new level, a whole new dimension, that of the interactive Web. Dozens of leading global PR experts have contributed to this book by agreeing to be interviewed on the topic of a social media revolution. Below, you will find the most pertinent quotes from CEOs of top-notch PR companies around the globe. Every single one seems to agree that the PR industry has been experiencing something huge and completely new.

Some agree that social media has brought about a true revolution in the PR business.

Others deem it a fast evolution. Yet others say it’s just a moderately paced evolution that is hugely important nonetheless. The most skeptical of them even argue that the field and practice of public relations have remained the same — it’s just stumbled upon some new communication channels. The PR professionals interviewed for this book have offered a marvelous palette of opinions about what has happened in the industry. It is an invaluable snapshot of a vastly tumultuous time for our business. Overall, the revolution vs. evolution divide is roughly half and half.

There are those who believe that what the industry has undergone in the last few “social media years” is simply an evolution with revolutionary traits. This is probably because they do not take into account one of the most important factors: media ownership. Yes, we can still write press releases and use communication channels to send our messages. However, those channels are of an entirely different type. All of us, not just the PR companies but the users,

have ownership over the media platforms

and can manage them as we please. That was not the case just some ten years ago when we were fully dependent on traditional media and online news media. Everything revolved around when the client would come in and say,

“Could you present my product to the media?”

There wasn’t even a discussion of the end consumers because the main target audience was the media, the journalists, the reporters, and the editors: how to win them over, how to present this product as a great one, how to explain all that to them. Today, we are using social media and holding it in our hands. In my opinion, such a change of ownership always means revolution, regardless of its direction.

The fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, for example.

It is questionable whether that was a true political revolution (because many members of the former Communist elite still stick around), but it did bring up another revolution property-wise — privatization. Privatization was an absolute change of ownership and an absolute — at least mental — revolution. That’s the case in Eastern Europe and many other countries worldwide. Given that we have seen a change in media ownership, it is more than clear that we now have a wholly different PR industry — a revolutionized one. In many countries where I went as ICCO president, I encountered the following when I went to PR companies.

I would be told,

“We do traditional PR. I would say, “What is traditional PR?”

They said,

“Well, it is this: we send out press releases, the clients come, we provide consultation, and we get paid for that . . .”

These times are long gone now. The times of the traditional image of the PR experts — in white shirts, red ties, and red suspenders with their legs up on the desk, with the client coming over and paying them $250 per hour for the consultation — have been long forgotten. In my view,

the image of the modern PR (human), homo PR-icus

— that’s the person who is nonstop plugged into social media —

communicates and debates all the time and thinks creatively about reaching the right people and target readers. To a great extent, PR experts need to know the target consumer, their traits, media consumption habits, preferences, everything. The social media revolution has even changed the way PR experts dress. The far more casual dress code generally used to be the business card of the advertising industry. This dressing style has also become dominant in the PR industry because the power of the PR expert no longer lies in consultation. The expertise is now behind the keyboard, scrolling and posting on social media — this is how we communicate with clients and achieve their objectives.

Knowing social media to the tiniest detail is an absolute must for every PR expert — from the CEO of a large PR corporation to the regular assistant or intern who sits behind a desk and does something on behalf of a client. Multinational corporations use external PR companies to communicate with their clients via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The responsibility is huge because we have media in our hands — if one makes a blunder, this will not just discredit the business of his or her employer but also make a fool of the client and their reputation. Even the business of giants such as IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, and BMW could be demolished with a single inappropriate tweet or a Facebook post.

That is the beauty — and horror — of the social media revolution in PR

and beyond! Of the 100 PR experts from a total of 62 countries worldwide who contributed their opinions and observations to this book, roughly two-thirds believe that the PR industry has indeed experienced a true revolution due to the advent of social media.


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