Fireside

PR Help Wanted: Problem Solvers

What do you tell someone who is thinking about going into PR? My initial response to the person who floated the idea – in this case, my 11th grade daughter – was to ask: “Do you like solving problems?”

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That wasn’t the answer she was expecting. But the job outlook for PR specialists is slightly above average, according to the US Department of Labor, in part because the challenges they address are not going away any time soon. Here are a few of these “problem” areas:

Market complexity. PR agencies aiming to promote a client’s message still reach out to leading journalists. How to connect with them remains a key challenge. But there are more players to track, including niche bloggers, designated or self-appointed opinion leaders, companies with their own content engines and the public at large, likewise empowered by the Internet and social media. Analyzing this fractured landscape and helping clients navigate it will be a growing part of what PR agencies do going forward.

Increased risk. With more voices and channels comes less control over what is being said and a greater chance that an organization’s message will have trouble reaching its intended audience. Did that latest blog article or Tweet from our competitor undercut our value proposition? Are sock-puppet accounts biasing discussion threads in the user forums? We reached the editor, but what about all those questions in the comments section? How to mitigate these kinds of risks is another big part of the PR business of the future.

More opportunity. In some ways, the PR industry today is tapping into its roots, with greater attention to its “public” mission and the need for ongoing, two-way “relations.” Amidst the noise is opportunity. One model focused on interviews with select journalists who spoke to a large but passive audience. The new model includes reaching out to influencers (sometimes former journalists) with noisy but well-informed tribes of followers. There is a large upside to figuring out how best to engage with these relatively open gatherings of the public or market segment that a client is looking to reach.