I am new to the PR industry. So new, in fact, that I’m not sure what all my responsibilities are at this moment in time. But then again… how soon will it be before things have changed beyond recognition?
As with almost every industry, public relations faces serious questions about its future. Its partner in crime, publishing, is already under threat from all fronts. Circulation is down, the online proliferation of fact-less content fuels distrust, and people are just plain tired of being told how dreadful the world is.
I’ve also chosen a funny time to get involved. Many of my friends do not hold the industry in high regard. While Bell Pottinger’s recent demise showed that misbehaviour has consequences, it fed longstanding concerns about the ‘dark arts’ that means better-behaved agencies have to go to great lengths to demonstrate their probity.
Beyond that, like in so many areas of economic activity, there is the potential of artificial intelligence to consider. Press releases can just be churned out in quick succession (and with fewer spelling mistakes) by a machine, right?
But I don’t see it. These three challenges are just that. They present problems that I think the industry will overcome. They push us to be better, more efficient and provide a greater number of services for our clients.
We also need to view the problems we face in perspective. Newspaper circulation may be down, but the rise in online readership has taken up some of the slack. People are creating and consuming content in constantly changing formats all the time, through phones and tablets. Bell Pottinger’s demise will encourage the larger PR agencies to clean up their act now that they’ve been reminded what can happen when you forget your own reputation in defence of another’s. And if anyone thinks press releases and holding statements need to be less human then I’m not sure they’ll get through a crisis or consultation.
Regardless of what I’m doing in this job in five, ten, or fifteen years’ time, as long as it’s not just me maintaining a series of press release machines all day, I’ll be fine.
Speaking of which, I’ve one to write by close of play.