Universities have long required their professors to publish scholarly books and papers; if they don’t, they find themselves out on the street – from which came the dreaded phrase, “publish or perish.”
Now, that phrase rings equally true for public relations firms. PR people all know how much our world has changed in the last few years, with self-published content rising by leaps and bounds even as the ranks of third-party media professionals dwindles to ever lower levels. Did we ask for this? No. We pride ourselves on being excellent partners to our media brethren.
Like it or not, we “media intermediaries” are being dis-intermediated by technology just like every other industry in the world. But fortunately PR has become an increasingly critical part of the business fabric, not only servicing but often defining the fabric itself. So, rather than our ranks shrinking, PR agency revenues are predicted to grow by 25% over the next five years.
But boy, will that extra 25% look different.
The newly released 2016 Global Communications Report, produced by the Holmes Report in conjunction with University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Public Relations, predicts that rapid increase while painting a landscape that will continue to change with lightning speed. It is one that will leave gaping holes between client needs and agency focus if we don’t sit up, listen and “turn on the power” of change within our ranks.
Of major import to us media intermediaries is the prediction that by 2020, a company’s mix of communications will be just 26.6% earned media, with 31.3% going to owned media, 22.8% to shared media and 17.3% to paid media. Three of the four – or 73.4% of the new communications mix – are publishing disciplines.
That’s going to speed up the journey many of us are already on – from pure intermediaries to publishers in our own right.
If we’re going to perform like a publisher, we need to equip our people to act like one. We’re leaving a PR agency world where a good part of the delivery job was convincing others to publish content about our clients. And we’re entering one where instead of “singing for our supper,” we must not only write for it, but also “image, infographic and video” for it. Do we historic word people have the resources we need to communicate in these visual languages?
It’s a new world that gives our people expanded growth horizons. It lets them generate creative ideas that are strategically on target and then decide exactly where those ideas belong among the various media channels. And now they often can put them there themselves.
One of our biggest challenges as newly minted PR publishers will be to lead our clients to the realization that PR must go much further than “free ink” –unless they are content to be in only 26.6% of the action. As the client partner that sees – and helps articulate – the client’s big picture, PR firms are uniquely suited to lead the overall communications mix strategy and content delivery. That includes knowing to recommend when something is worth paying for, just like media buyers know. But as PR people we also need to be able to execute upon it quickly, compellingly and flawlessly.
Many thanks to Annenberg and Paul Holmes for taking the pulse of our industry and sharing its roadmap to an exciting future. May we all publish our way to ever greater success!