Has Social Media Really Killed PR Agencies?

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Yesterday, Business Insider’s Tip Of The Day called attention to a piece in Inc. from Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText, about bootstrapping PR. I highly recommend that you read the entire post by Mayfield as well. 

The topic of PR’s relevance comes up most often in startup circles when CEOs are focused on introducing a new product or fundraising. It’s certainly an option at this stage. However, as a company grows, the job of PR is vast. I doubt anyone at BP would argue a case for eliminating its PR department.

PR is changing – there is no question about it. Public relations and media relations are not synonymous though. Yes, media relations is part of the mix, but there is much more to it. I would characterise the change as a move away from simply broadcasting messages to engaging with and creating conversations. PR’s role continues to be getting messages out to the masses, as well as facilitating conversations wherever they occur.

But the role of PR is more than one of traffic cop. Our role is to help clients tell a compelling story – one that is relevant given the conversations taking place. You cannot be 10 things to any one industry and PR must help companies determine how to cut through the din with the most compelling message for their target audiences.

I agree with many of the tactics outlined in Mayfield’s article and think many startups and small businesses (the audience for Inc.) can benefit from that advice. However, what he outlines is also a full time job. Taking a story from the blogsphere to the mass market takes a focused effort that combines the right story, with the right audiences, frequently enough to rise to the top of the clutter, and that takes a serious dedication to nurturing those conversations.

There are only so many Twitters, Facebooks and Foursquares out there (incidentally, at least one of those has a PR agency).

The PR industry is stronger than ever, thanks in part to social media and the proliferation of news outlets. PR Week recently reported that PR spending is set to hit $4.4 billion by 2014 (up from $3.4 billion this year).

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