Is traditional PR turf being eroded by social media?

At Bateson Publicity we don’t really claim to have our finger on the pulse of the PR world – funnily enough we’re really not that plugged into it as we work for a completely different client profile to larger agencies: we don’t do major corporate and we do very little work with consumer products or services (we’re mainly B2B and professional services, small-medium businesses).

However we have heard ‘through the grapevine’ that a lot of businesses have cut their PR budgets and either let internal staff go or dropped their external PR agency. This has undoubtedly been caused by the GFC and, as always, the first budgets to be cut are those that fall under the general ‘marketing’ banner, including PR.

But there’s also a noticeable shift in business generally: the rise of the internet and social media has led to a proliferation of digital agencies and experts offering solutions that are cutting into traditional PR’s turf – perhaps even entirely replacing traditional PR. PR agencies are of course fighting back and are busy employing digital specialists to emphasise their ‘comfort’ with the new world.

Perhaps we would say this, but if a PR agency’s role is to help its client ‘relate’ to its ‘public’, then the new world of social media is simply another communications channel for this job.

What we have seen over and over again is businesses jumping into social media, setting up blogs, email newsletters, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and then doing absolutely nothing with them. To work, these channels have to be filled with (interesting, useful) content, and if an organisation doesn’t have time to do this themselves, they need an agency to do this for them, and this should be a public relations or marketing agency, not a technology consultant.

Too often businesses turn to their web developer to switch on these services with little thought as to how they can sustain a steady stream of interesting and engaging content for their ‘public’ on them.

David Bateson
David Bateson on Google+

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