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#PRin2012: Economic Realities Reset the PR/Media Relationship

Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of 12 guest posts from industry executives predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2012. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2012, the series began Dec. 19, 2011, with a compilation post previewing all 12 predictions.

The British are a skeptical, at times increasingly cynical, lot. Over the past couple of years a series of crises has only served to reinforce this character trait. Our members of parliament — a few of them, anyway — were seen to have fiddled their expenses. The financial crisis taught us that all-knowing masters of the universe in the City of London were not quite as smart as they claimed. And the phone-hacking scandal caused us to question (as never before) what we were reading in our newspapers.

This is not an easy context for PR professionals to operate in. Add in continuing nervousness about the health of the economy and you have an audience that takes a lot of convincing about anything.

In this environment thoughtful PR firms know they are going to have to raise their game. Glib and flimsy messaging will not work. Exaggerated claims are doomed to fail. Brave and principled PR advisers will tell their clients this. They will not over-promise. They will educate their clients into the new media realities of 2012.

A depressed economic environment — not least in traditional mainstream media — means that the confusion and blurring of media channels will intensify in the New Year. Social media will continue to exert its sometimes unseen, stealthy influence on more established publishers and broadcasters. A richer, more confusing and, perhaps, less reliable media market will ensue.

This too will demand incisive PR support. Which audiences do you really need to reach, and how? Will “stunts” (aka “initiatives” and “launches”) ever work again — if they ever did.

To be sure, these are not new questions. They are familiar ones to any communications professional. But the disciplines and demands of this industry in 2012 will probably be tougher than before. And there is no nice way of spinning that.

Stefan Stern (@StefanStern) is director of strategy in the London office of Edelman.

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