I'm not sure which of the famous posts--Scoble, Arrington, Calacanis--and the responses from Steve Rubel, Brian Solis and others, planted the seed. Several of us were sitting in an office one day talking about where PR is going, and the fact that in all the noise about the so-called death of PR, no one really talks in an open, live forum about where this industry is actually headed.
And then Jeremiah Owyang put up his heal thyself post, and Dee Anna discussed it with him at an event, following up with an open invitation to bloggers to come see us at work. We discussed putting together a panel--just getting everyone in a room to have it out. Adriana Gascoigne of Girls in Tech (also a client through her work with hi5) agreed to co-sponsor, and the panel was born.
We originally conceived it as a sort of smackdown in which we get at the tensions between PR, media and bloggers, but we knew that'd be over-simplistic and limiting. And it's been done to death.
We wanted to get past all that to what the new media ecosystem will look like. Should companies fire their PR agency, as Jason Calacanis argued? Is a PR firm often unnecessary, as Robert Scoble said?
Does social media make PR irrelevant?
Here's the thing: each company is unique, and, with the groundswell in customer self-advocacy and the availability of social tools (let's not forget the trusty telephone!) there are far too many interactions now to control them all.
And that makes some people very, very uncomfortable.
So that means is time to, as one of my colleagues is fond of saying, put on our big-girl pants and deal. We need to look at what this new landscape has brought us. With direct engagement the rule and not the exception, the image of corporate communications as gatekeeper is sadly out of date (and was limited to begin with). Sure, there will always be specific issues related to fair disclosure or litigation, but for the most part, our opportunity is much more strategic and much more expansive than before.
It means different skills--as Jeremiah pointed out--and new focus. It means using our expertise in a broader way; in customer service, product development, strategic planning. Here's the thing:
In an increasingly open and social world, the way companies communicate equals strategic advantage.
So being able to frame and tell a story, to find the support, to facilitate (not control) relationships is key. And measurement is a given.
We didn't get all the way to the vision part last night--or even close--but I thought that was okay. And here's why: we hit a nerve. I was stunned to see how many people registered, attended and stood quietly for the 90 minutes of the panel, shouting their questions out and debating the merits of the answers.
Our thanks to Girls in Tech for joining us, to Sam Whitmore for his elegant moderation, and to Jeremiah and Kara for their insights and candor. And thanks to our guests, who made this more of a debate and and a forum, in the best sense of the word.
Clearly, there's a lot more to talk about. I'll follow up next week with some specific recommendations on where we go from here, but in the meantime, I hope you'll help us keep the conversation going.
Here are some reactions so far--I'll update these as the links come in.
From Jeremiah at Web Strategist on the opportunities ahead of us.
From Kara Swisher, in Boomtown, an advocate for quality no matter how fast the world spins (and always spot on and hilarious--check out the video too!).
From Ravit Lichtenberg, who live-blogged it (thanks, Ravit!)
From Amy Gahran of Contentious, on our use of hashtags to track the event in Twitter (full disclosure: Jeremiah showed me how to do it five minutes before the event).
Our constantly-evolving Twitter stream of the event at #prblog.
Here's Gayle Kesten of bMighty's take.
Cece Lee, with a more critical eye (Cece, really appreciated your points-more to come)
And Sam Whitmore's take.
Charlie Cooper of CNET had more of an old-school (his phrase) view: this to say: "But in the end, doesn't everything come back to value?" I don't call that old-school. I call that eternal.
And who can forget Valleywag?
Adrian Chan and Christel Van Der Boom challenge us to go bigger next time (agreed!)
Here's Aarti from PRWeek on the reputation problem that PR still faces.
And MediaBistro on our "Shakespearean Mousetrap."
Jennifer Leggio, social media blogger at ZDNet; always cogent and so thoughtful.
Carmen Hughes of Ignite PR, calling for PR to evolve. [Props to Carmen for being the first agency PR person to respond publicly].