Again this year, I got links to dozens of those inevitable posts that come up at the beginning and end of a year. All this got me to thinking about both inevitability about wishes for the future. An email from a friend came also, remindin me of a whole list of things that weren’t around in the olden days (cell phones, polio vaccine, etc.), and it turned out that the “olden” days included the early span of my life – providing even more cause to reflect about just where all of this is going, particularly when it comes to communications.
As colleague Geoff Livingston said in Now is Gone, “Communications have evolved more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100.” And, for those of us toiling in the consulting business at CRT/tanaka who are focused on such things, the next ten years hold some pretty awesome promise for the practice of public relations.
First off, there is no loftier publication on the the planet than The Economist, and it’s covering public relations. The Economist gives PR a good start on the coming year and decade with its declaration “Good News: Other firms’ suffering has bolstered the public relations Business.” Aside from being amused by “good news” and “suffering” in such proximity, I was impressed by the number of trends that seem to add up in our favor.
While Richard Edelman’s description of PR as the “organising principle” behind many business decisions is a point of view that might be more an aspirational goal for a PR firm exec, there are a number of opportunities on our next-10-year horizon that do seem attainable and desirable.
First, there’s the thorny issue of reputation. What used to be thought of as “reputation management” must become a more sincere effort to engage with dozens of stakeholders in any enterprise and incorporate lots of their thinking into the direction of the organization. This opportunity is especially applicable for business, and my 10-year crystal ball says it will also affect politics in the period. We simply cannot continue to have Republicans and Democrats treat the running of a great country as just a power tilt between two parties any more than we can have irresponsible lending drive us into another economic ditch. People are rebelling and will continue to do so. Public relations plays an important role in guiding organizations to do the right things.
The second big dynamic that caught my eye in The Economist was described as “the withering of many traditional media outlets.” That makes PR “doubly important,” by its ability to bypass such old media and through its capability of engaging new media. There is no set of people on the planet better situated than public relations professionals to take advantage of this evolution in media, but there are some important warning signs to heed.
Brian Solis provided some insight into just what it’s going to take to play in his post this week: “The Ten Stages of Social Media Business Integration.” I would add that not only do public relations professionals need to rise to such strategic ambitions, but also must continue to learn and knit together the techniques and tools required to operate. Everything from clouds to mobile marketing to bio-interfaces will blur the communications lines and may even challenge our ethics related to privacy, intrusive marketing and human-computer interactions. Take a look at scientist-gone-to-the-policy-dark-side thinker Andrew Maynard to get a glimpse of what the world of science may throw our way in terms of new ideas in the next 10 years.
Finally, a wonderful absurdity was served up in the closing paragraphy of the article in The Economist. Reflecting on the likelihood of more regulation on the heels of recent attempts by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States to shine more light on the endorsers of products and services (The Buzz Bin, December 11, 2009), the reporter noted, “After all, companies that fall foul of the rules will need the help of a PR firm.”
Here’s to a successful and prosperous (for all the right reasons) decade!