I apparently caused a stir yesterday at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego. Actually, it was a disturbing fact -- or an inconvenient truth -- that I cited which caused the stir. So, don't shoot the messanger.
During the Q&A part of the conference workshop, "Looking Ahead: The Nexus of Social Media and Public Relations," Peter Himler, founder and principal of Flatiron Communication, asked a rhetorical question of the audience. I've known Himler for about 15 years, so I raised my hand when nobody seemed eager to speculate on when traditional media relations should be declared dead.
I'm presenting a PRSA teleseminar on Nov. 17, and I had been working on my presentation before heading to San Diego. So, I happened to have a data point at my finger tips that related to the question.
According to The State of News Media for 2009, which is published by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, 5,900 full-time newsroom jobs, 11% of the total at America's newspapers, were cut in 2008. By the end of 2009, newsrooms of American daily newspapers may employ 25% fewer people than they did in 2001.
Ad Age estimates that just under 150,000 people worked in magazines in 2008, down from about 170,000 in 2000. And in local television, news staffs, already too small to adequately cover their communities, are being cut at unprecedented rates.
So, that's why PR people need to embrace social media as quickly as they can. If they don't include blog outreach, YouTube marketing, Facebook marketing, and Twitter marketing within the definition of public relations, then PR will employ 25% fewer people than it did in 2001.
Okay, so maybe that was a little like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. But facts are facts, and I was just telling the truth.
But some of the people in the room reacted like they were going through the five stages of grief described in the book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, "On Death and Dying." They are:
1. Denial (This isn't happening to me!)
2. Anger (Why is this happening to me?)
3. Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
4. Depression (I don't care anymore.)
5. Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes.)
To help the PR specialists in your company through the grieving process, you should have the SEO specialists take them to lunch. Eat some comfort food. And let them know that they will play a really important role in social media -- as soon as they get their arms around social media measurement.
Okay, that last part may be "tough love." They may not be ready to embrace social media measurement -- yet.
But, sooner or later, they have to move on. Sooner or later, they need to heed the advice of Cher in the movie Moonstruck: "Get over it!"