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Beyond the Press Release/Unpredictions For 2010

Dec 12, 2009

This is part of a series of unpredictions I’ve written — this one being closest to my heart, an anti-forecast for the PR industry. In a nutshell, I am optimistic about what 2010 holds for us in PR. I have to be. I believe the industry is well-positioned to take great strides over the coming year. Operating from a frugal mindset, more businesses are definitely favoring the value and effectiveness of PR over high-investment strategies like, um, advertising. And as the recovery takes hold and government continues to incentivize small business creation, I also see a lot of startups turning to PR to help with market development, branding and visibility. This is a good thing.

Most agencies — size notwithstanding — have taken a battering this year, being challenged to do a whole lot more with a whole lot less. Going forward, I see the leaders in PR as those who distinguish themselves in this highly competitive environment by going the extra mile for clients. And in an era of doing more with less, this will be as much a survival strategy as a competitive edge in 2010. But enough of the serious stuff. Here are my unpredictions for 2010, and if any come to fruition, you’ll have to blame my crystal ball!

#9 Social media sites Facebook and Twitter die peacefully in their sleep from lack of usage, moved on to social media heaven. At this rate, the only people not on Facebook and Twitter by the end of 2010 will be my grandparents. Oh, I just got an email: “Grandpa is now following you on Twitter.” Social media may be the newest and shiniest toy in the PR toybox, but that doesn’t mean it lacks longevity. In 2010 it will continue to be an incredibly important aspect of many PR campaigns, if even some proclaim to be so over Twitter. The fact remains that businesses not using social media to promote their products or services are neglecting a huge audience: everyone (now including my grandpa).

#8 Grammar and spelling declared useless by AP Style. Everyone adopts online lingo as new English. I luv 2 chat w/ u but i wish I cud get what ur saying. OMG, lol, LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😉 As the language continues to devolve into the space-limited gibberish illustrated above, it deserves mention on this list. Good grammar and accurate spelling are cornerstones of communication — which is, in turn, the cornerstone of marketing and public relations, none of which has changed since we’ve traded typewriters for PCs. Maybe the stone tablet. But no matter how connected a society we become, no matter how much time we spend online, in the world of marketing and PR, proper usage still reigns.

#7 ThinkInk releases an iPhone app. Here’s a little marketing lesson for you, free of charge: Making an iPhone app that is completely useless won’t increase your business or revenues. Enough said. By the way, our app is currently 121,874 in popularity in the App store. Oh, and speaking of iPhones, Apple goes out of business. Mac boy (a/k/a Justin Long) found wandering the Web, gripping his iPod and shouting obscenities at PC, who now runs the (online) world.

#6 Home Depot opens Center for Do-It-Yourself PR, enjoys great success in 2010. Like the person looking to save money by sanding and varnishing wooden floor beams, do-it-yourself PR can end up being very messy — and in most cases, looking unprofessional. We don’t learn about media relations and journalistic needs for nothing in PR school. DIYers do a lot of damage with trashy releases, poor pitches and a general lack of understanding about the difference between PR and being a pest. As free tools, dummies guides and press release services abound, effective PR will remain in the realm of professionals for yet another year. Rejoice!

#5 The last issue of the print version of The New York Times (released Feb. 18, 2010) is inducted into the MoMA in New York. Repeat after me: never going to happen. Although newspapers are rethinking their distribution method, the Grey Lady and other key outlets are still the last word in news gathering and reporting. Although tough times are indeed ahead for the newspaper industry (we’ve only been hearing this now for five years), and many local papers are being eclipsed (in terms of consumer habits) by online sources, ultimately there is room in the market for print outlets. From a PR perspective, placements in the great newspapers remain the Holy Grail for clients, and their reporters and columnists remain at the top of agency contact lists. In short, they still rule.

#4 People realize that BlackBerrys and iPhones are annoying because they make you too accessible. Everyone buys Razrs and jumps off the texting bandwagon (because who can use those T9 phones??). Clearly ridiculous. The mobile channel and the smartphone are both increasing in importance, and have been for years. This will not change in 2010. Businesses hoping to stay ahead of the marketing and PR curve will have to think outside the traditional marketing media and embrace mobile as a new and highly effective way to reach customers. Do it now.

#3 Advertising rates hit rock-bottom; companies start giving away ads. The online and mobile communications channels have evolved in an advertising-based economy, which has had the effect of boosting advertising rates. Advertising (even now during a recession) costs an arm and a leg, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. And what continues to be inexpensive and highly effective in 2010? Why, it’s PR, quelle surprise!

#2 PR people, as an industry, decide to work less and adopt 20-hour work weeks. The definition of a PR person (at least at my agency) is “someone who loves to talk, write and pitch and who will do it non-stop for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, maybe more if bribed with bucks. Available on BlackBerry at least 21 hours per day. We don’t sleep.” You know — we’re those sick types who get an adrenaline rush every time we score a great placement for a client. That’s not going to change.

#1 The press release joins the NYT at MoMA and goes on national roadshow; media students overcome with excitement. Okay, so the press release lives to see another year. I’ve been trashing the press release for some time, but it’s not going away. It’s simply reborn and transformed into something more useful and meaningful for today’s media audience and readers. Can we thank social media for the second coming of the press release? I’m not sure, but great content rules in any medium. Of course, there are some things that absolutely won’t happen in 2010, like Euro RSCG Worldwide joining forces with Y&R or a universal system for determining PR’s ROI. But what we will see are more companies becoming more creative in their thinking, changing their process and adapting to a new era — embracing disruptive technology, but for the PR industry. And now for the caveat: prognostication, even in the form of unpredictions, is by definition inexact. Some of these farfetched ideas may indeed come to pass, and there’s no guarantee that some disruptive development may render all of our great concepts obsolete. Imagine. But all of these unpredictions represent my guess at what’s ahead for the PR industry, and I’m fairly confident that none of the nine headlines above will see the light of day in 2010. Trust me, I’m in PR.

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