Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 12, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan…Into a Communications Pressure Cooker

Martin Waxman will be presenting his Social Media Barometer talk at the PRSA 2012 International Conference on Sunday, Oct. 14, 3–4:15 p.m. .

As the old saying goes, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”.  I guess it goes to show how important weather is to the Bay area. The temperature. Chance of precipitation. Barometric pressure.

So it seems fitting to be at the PRSA 2012 International Conference in San Francisco to offer a forecast from my Social Media Barometer – an examination of some of the recent trends and pressure points happening in the social communications space. 

We’re living in an exciting, challenging and somewhat scary time when the words ‘because that’s how it’s always been done’, have lost their power and meaning. Nothing’s on the tip of our tongues anymore. We’ve outsourced our memories and knowledge to Google.  

We have a clash of generations in the workplace. Boomers are still in charge, reluctantly passing the torch to Generation X. And yet Millennials have another view and see things through a different lens – Google glasses perhaps. Many don’t think about traditional media at all when they search for news. They rely on social networks.

Some of us have become grudging acceptors of the new reality, when we should be active participants and creators. But it’s hard to find time when things don’t stop moving. According to Gartner Research, by 2015 we’ll be living in a mobile world with one billion smartphones sold and around 350 million tablets on the market. Compare that to the 400 million computers sold each year and you can see where we’re heading.  

Television isn’t enough anymore. We need a second – or third – screen to keep up with the emerging media companies. Facebook says 85% of its revenues come from advertising but doesn’t pay for content, YouTube offers production deals to professionals and amateurs and Twitter’s closing down its open platform as it tries to integrate revenue into its many conversational streams. It used to be ABC, CBS and NBC, now we have a new big three – 21st century moguls in waiting.

Meanwhile, many traditional media are adopting a digital first approach and leaving print behind. And yet some PR folks still regard the news release as the ultimate answer. They don’t realize the question has changed.

Sure we’ve embraced the new reality somewhat but we’ve been slow to learn the skills we need to become visual storytellers, as good with video as we are with words. We cling to the notion of earned when we should also be integrating owned and paid too.

These are some of the topics I’ll be looking at in my forecast.  And the good news is – I see the clouds clearing in the distance.

So no need to bring an umbrella. Bring your questions, insights and perspectives instead.

Martin Waxman, APR, is a former PR agency owner turned social media and communications strategist and trainer, principal of his own consultancy and senior counselor with Thornley Fallis.  He blogs at myPALETTE, is one of the hosts of Inside PR, PRSA’s podcasting partner, and can be found on Twitter @martinwaxman. He’s also on PRSA Counselor Academy’s executive committee, teaches social media at McMaster University and has written two books of fiction.

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