“We are standing at the threshold of a world of new opportunities that could enable the public relations industry to reach a Golden Age,” noted Ken Makovsky, founder and president of Makovsky + Company, in his recent keynote address at the Vancouver Speaker Series sponsored by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS).
In his speech, Makovsky detailed seven reasons why he believes the “Golden Age” of public relations is within reach.
1. The need for message warriors. Today, it’s not what you say about yourself that matters as much as what your constituencies say about you to each other. Message warriors are the foot soldiers in the campaign to capture hearts and minds. That is “third-party endorsement” in its finest sense; and it’s what PR people have excelled at for years.
2. Truthiness & the decline of trust. “Truthiness” — believing something to be true, without any reference to analysis, logic or evidence — is a growing phenomenon. On the Internet, something that is reported frequently may be perceived as more trustworthy than a true fact that’s not on the first few pages of Google search results. The result? There are no more beacons of trust. Rebuilding trust (a skillset that defines public relations) will increase the demand for PR in the coming years.
3. The second coming of TV. According to Jeff Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, television will once again become the constant companion of our leisure hours; only this time, it’s moving from the room to the pocket. As the number of hours spent watching TV increases from 34 hours weekly to an estimated 50, the demand for content will skyrocket — and PR people can help to create, shape and distribute that content.
4. Breathtaking tech breakthroughs. There are two distinct ways in which new breakthroughs in technology will reshape and expand opportunities in PR. First, technology-proficient “geeks” will increasingly become an essential part of our business, just as graphic designers and research specialists are today. And second, indicators suggest that another big wave of technology is coming that will give rise to new business and economic growth, particularly in the areas of consumer electronics, B2B technology, the green revolution and everything mobile, including banking.
5. One world; multiple opportunities. Until recently, unless you were in a major hub — like Toronto, Tokyo or New York — an agency’s clients were mostly confined to the city or region in which the firm operated. However, the “global village” first described by media guru Marshall McLuhan in the mid-1960s is now a reality. Today, it’s possible for anyone, anywhere in the world, to seek out your company.
6. The cost of getting PR wrong is greater than ever before. Today, what’s inside is outside. As a result of the rise of social media, everything a company, its competitors, customers, partners, employees, shareholders and neighbors say — indeed, everything that has anything to do with that company — is a wide open book. This is a great challenge to manage. If not done carefully, the dam will break … and the cost is steep.
7. Growth in stature. The PR industry has traditionally been David to the ad industry’s Goliath … at least in terms of revenues. But public relations – based on spending rate of increase –is beginning to close the budget gap. If a company must limit its choice to only one option in the marketing toolkit, the best choice would be PR, because we do it all and — in the framework of the great global conversation enabled by the Internet — we do it better than anyone else.
Makovsky concedes that these are predictions, not certainties. Among the possible stumbling blocks facing the industry are the continuing lack of comprehensive and universally accepted metrics and a shortage of talent.
Widely regarded as a visionary in the public relations industry — and the 2007 recipient of the PRSA’s prestigious John W. Hill Award — Ken Makovsky was honored by his peers in 2010 by various organizations as “PR Executive of the Year,” PR Professional of the Year” and “PR Blogger of the Year.”