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Is the traditional PR agency dead?


Feature writers love declaring that concepts are dead. It makes for an easy opening paragraph and a snappy headline (see above). However, there is no doubt that the emergence of social media platforms such as Twitter and the changing nature of journalism has had a major impact on how the PR industry operates.

But is it really time to start the funeral orations, burn the ceremonial boats and push the industry out to sea? Dominc Hyatt, chief executive officer of Just In Time PR, certainly feels that the old-school model's day has been and gone.

Writing in the Drum, he pointed out that the world of the media has opened up at an unprecedented pace over the last decade. When companies (and clients) can contact journalists directly via social media, PR's role as a mediating force has lost much of its power.

"This ease with which companies can communicate directly with journalists, whether trade, local, national or international, is just one reason why the traditional PR agency is headed for the knacker's yard," said Mr Hyatt.

However, this is not the only factor in the decline of the traditional PR model - according to the Just In Time chief, changing attitudes and shrinking budgets mean that businesses are now interested in quantifiable results rather than broader, long-term concepts.

While this may not be the case across the board, it is true that over-worked and under-funded marketing departments now need to justify their spending to executives with facts and figures. This is something that can be offered by, for instance, Google Rankings, but not for consumer goodwill or audience exposure.

However, Mr Hyatt pointed out that the increasing accessibility of journalism is a double-edged sword. The media is essentially a content aggregator; as Google becomes more powerful and streamlined, journalists can be avoided entirely by PR agencies capable of producing their own high-quality work.

"Produce great content and companies, even small companies, no longer need to go to the media for great exposure, but can hoover up the eyeballs direct by ranking seriously high," he declared.

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