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The Future of PR: Are Traditional Tactics Dead?

By Karen Addis, APR
February 1, 2014

Attendees at January’s PRSA-NCC Professional Development Workshop braved frigid temperatures and icy conditions to hear from industry veterans and their take on “The Future of PR in Washington.”

No doubt the rise of digital and social media have had huge impacts on the profession and radically changed how PR is practiced nowadays. There is the need for PR practitioners to keep current with new technology and embrace it as well as understand the role the various technology platforms play in furthering an organization’s business objectives.

The radical changes in traditional media have also meant that journalists are now becoming more like PR practitioners, with many mainstream news outlets sponsoring co-branded events as a means of helping to close the huge revenue gap due to declining ad sales and a decline in subscriptions/viewers.

But, interestingly, the consensus among all panelists was that traditional PR tactics are still alive and well and play a critical and valuable role any communications operation.

Senior Vice President of the Consumer Electronics Association, Jeff Joseph, emphasized that the fundamentals still matter. “We often forget about things that work,” said Joseph. “The fact is that tens of millions of people still watch the news, listen to the radio and read newspapers. While we certainly embrace technology [at CEA], we still use ANRs, VNRs, and matte stories,” noting that those tactics are still effective in reaching the trade association’s key audiences.

BAE’s Director of External Communications Kristen Gossel agreed. “We spend lots of time sticking to the basics [at our company]: traditional media relations and strategic thinking.”

Regional President of Edelman, Washington, D.C., Rob Rehg, said that the firm’s biggest areas of growth over the past few years have been in digital and social media areas ― particularly video story-telling ― but acknowledged that “traditional media relations still matters a lot.”

Kate Perrin, founder and CEO of PRofessional Solutions, LLC, which celebrates 20 years in business this year, commented on the obsession nowadays with digital and social media, but pointed out, “you can’t jettison traditional tactics,” saying that her clients still look for candidates with a strong background in traditional skills.

And the #1 skill, according to the panelists, that all PR practitioners must possess, regardless of experience? Writing.

Karen Addis, APR, is senior vice president at Van Eperen & Company, a full-service public relations and marketing communications in the Washington, DC, area. You can contact her at kaddis@veandco.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @karenaddis or connect with her on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/karenaddis.

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