PRSA Int’l Conference: Early Thoughts

I arrived in San Diego last night and to start my prep for the International PRSA annual conference I took a look over the agenda with great curiosity. The theme is “Delivering Value” with the conference broken up into four main tracks: innovation strategies; effective tools and techniques; specialization and practice areas; and finally, the business case for public relations.The latter track is likely where I will be spending the majority of my time.

There are several questions I am in search of opinions. Among them:
Why is there an abundance of social media experts/divisions flooding PR agencies vs PR professionals being re-trained to understand how to use social media as part of their tool set?

Why isn’t social media being absorbed into PR if PR pro’s recognize it as a function of PR? And why isn’t that message being passed along to clients who are paying separate line items for those new social media divisions?

What do these professionals think needs to be done to fundamentally change the way PR is perceived and practiced?

With is the NEW definition of what PR is now that it’s taken on more of an integrated marketing function?

Is the term Public Relations even still relevant to describe those practitioners who are practicing the art of PR from the point of view of driving business metrics, not press hits and re-tweets?

If the broader industry at large does not recognize the value that PR can bring, why would launching a campaign to separate PR from Publicity really infuse trust and integrity back into the profession?

Why are we so focused on PR’ing our need for better PR of PR that we’re not focused instead on spotlighting and attacking the problems and fixing them at the root?

Our industry is broken.

And I’m not the only one that feels that way and senses the impending doom facing the “PR” industry as it becomes replaced with more evolved practices with new names like Integrated Communications. As anyone who has read this blog knows, I have been wrestling with calling what I do as PR because the title just doesn’t cut it. And the diminished respect left for the industry by the broader business community only pushes me further away.

Every time I engage in these discussions with “PR” professionals that I think “get it” they repeatedly tell me that they don’t like to use the term PR but they don’t have a word to replace it. Which, to me, gets to the real root of the problem. We don’t know what PR is anymore. There is still no new definition. Which is why I’m so fascinated by PRSA’s upcoming campaign aimed at raising the visibility of PR’s Value.

This approach to me seems to match the outdated way of thinking about PR. How is conducting a PR campaign to “raise visibility” going to change what’s really wrong? Are CEO’s going to encounter it and suddenly think- you’re right! I get it now!? Or will changing the practice of PR industry-wide and having it properly represented by informed and educated professionals be the way to raise visibility into the increased value PR can bring? I believe the term is leading by example and that’s something no campaign can replace.

(btw- You’d think that a communications conference that wants to promote blogging and internet chatter about the conference would have ample free wi-fi. Not so much. Good thing I have a Boingo account.)

(Update: I ended up leaving the same day I got there. Nothing grabbed my attention to keep me to stay.)

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