Last week on Thursday I spent the day at the TurnPROn event in San Francisco focused on the future of public relations. It was hosted as part of the Online Market World conference, and a relatively small and concentrated event. Despite the small size, the lineup of speakers was surprisingly good, and included folks like Erik Hauser, Brian Solis and Tom Burg. Through the event, the topics ranged from the obvious to the controversial. Some speakers did spend time talking about the future of the press release (BIG yawn) … but for the most part the event fostered some great conversation about where PR is and where it needs to go. Here were two key highlights I took away from the day about what the future of PR may hold:
- Closer alignment with search. Given the power of search engines and the increasing role that search agencies are starting to play in the marketing mix, there is a natural allegiance that needs to form between search and PR. Merging editorial calendars and key messages with the nuances of search marketing (both SEO and paid search) was a topic that several speakers mentioned. It may seem relatively obvious, but based on the number of times I have seen search marketing teams work independently from PR teams is stunning.
- PR pros need to shun their inferiority complex. One of the common threads that manifested itself throughout the day was the inferiority complex that many PR professionals have in relation to other marketing pros (especially peers in advertising). Having worked on both sides, I know that the budgets can be mismatched, but that at the smart agencies, PR is starting to stake more ground. This is not about taking orders from clients, it is about more powerfully articulating where a client needs to go and becoming the partner that gets them there. I happen to think this is an obvious and natural place for PR to be … but PR pros need to shed their inferiority complex and take that leap.
The second point is particularly relevant, as this is something I have steadily noted about the PR industry after spending more and more time recently at inter-agency meetings where PR professionals (from our agency and others) come together with media planning agencies and Ad agencies. No one is going to hand PR folks their chance to speak up or offer them a leading role. We have to take it. The open question here is perhaps about ego. Are there just bigger egos in other types of agencies? If not, what else is it that often keeps PR in a subservient role to other types of marketers? These were the sorts of interesting questions raised during TurnPROn. Finding the answer seems like the real key to the future of PR.