Back when Harold Burson teamed with William Marstellar to start a PR agency in 1953, radio was losing its status as the only form of communication by which millions of people could share information simultaneously. By then, seven million television sets had been sold in the U.S. and while TV was in its infancy, a massive shift began in the way audiences were entertained and informed. Plus, thousands of professionals who had provided content for radio programs moved to the new medium, leaving radio to re-invent itself in order to survive.
In a recent article in Tactics, PRSA‘s newspaper, Burson observed a fundamental truth about PR and another massive shift in media platforms. As a result, his company is re-inventing itself, moving to “a much closer integration between public relations and advertising, and promotion and direct marketing.”
In recent years, experts have called our deepening overlap of communication techniques “integrated marketing communication.” Last week at a Public Relations Professionals of Long Island event, Zimmerman/Edelson’s David Chauvin noted that his agency is shifting its focus to “integrated content.” Because audiences receive information from a burgeoning array of web- and mobile-based platforms, public relations practitioners will be increasingly called upon to become content providers. And we’re not just talking social media; PR people will create more and more content for broadcast and cable plus thousands of newspapers and niche magazines, each with their own web sites, blogs, podcasts and other media channels.
“The people in this business have known for generations that the most effective communication is word-of-mouth,” said Burson, whose company, Burson-Marstellar, is now the world’s largest PR firm. “I see word-of-mouth as the basis of today’s social media. The fact that you can multiply word of mouth by thousands, tens of thousands, millions, has made social media a very potent tool.”
The need for content heightens the demand for PR people who are top writers and producers, and presents exciting challenges for present and future professionals. It’s a fast-changing PR world, and like 92-year-old Harold Burson, we all must keep up. Your thoughts?