Gauging the pace of change in PR in 2010

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Photo of Yangshuo County, China courtesy of adrileb via Flickr

Over the holidays, I read Tom Friedman’s excellent book on the convergence of climate change, globalization and overpopulation, “Hot, Flat and Crowded“. It was particularly impactful to read while visiting my wife’s parents in the UK, where fuel-efficient cars and homes are, as Friedman says, “the norm, not the news”. But the part of the book that got me thinking about the future of public relations had to do with the greening of China.

For China, mitigating climate change while continuing to grow the economy at a steady clip is a challenge not unlike trying to change the engine in a speeding bus, Friedman says, referencing the movie Speed.

Similarly, the evolution going on in PR over the past few years requires a balancing act. Social technologies like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have reintroduced an emphasis on relationship-building between communications professionals and journalists. That presents PR pros with a massive opportunity to move away from distributing large quantities of news releases to many journalists (the “spray and pray approach”) and instead using tools like Cision’s media database to target their releases to the very most relevant contacts.

But how quickly will that shift take place? Perhaps a bit like changing the engine in a speeding bus, it’s a transition that must occur while we’re juggling the daily pressures of our duties. Will PR pros use this evolution to establish the level of authenticity that has been professed to us in recent leading books like Trust Agents by Chris Brogan, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge, and The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott? Or will business as usual prevail?

After several years of social Web hype, 2010 could be the year we find out.

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