“Not sure if this social media thing will stick around”

I attended a PR industry meeting this week where I watched yet another old schooler show just how stuck in the 20th century he is. I won’t give too many details in an effort to protect the guilty. But the presenter, who was  CEO of an agency, said, and I quote, “I’m not too sure if this social media thing is going to stick around.”

After wiping the sundried tomatoes and spaghetti sauce off my chin, which had fallen with a THUD onto my plate, I glimpsed up to see if his team was as mortified as I was. If they were, they weren’t showing it.  

To continue this agency suicide, the CEO went on to joke that he has a Twitter account and checks it once a year to see if anyone’s talking about him.  Then he quipped that it’s fun for the big celebrities with thousands of followers, but he didn’t see much of a business opportunity for clients. 

Now I’ll be the first to say that there are a lot of amazing PR pros out there who see social media for what it is — a huge PR opportunity and challenge. At no other time in marketing history has it been so easy for the consumer to immediately tell millions of people about a positive or negative brand experience.  Businesses can now skip the media gatekeeper and get their message straight to the masses.  The word of mouth potential is a bit mind-boggling.

But there are still plenty of old school PR practitioners who are resisting change. I can sort of understand — when you spend decades doing it one way and things change, you are bound to be sceptical.  But to publically admit — at an industry event attended by clients and potential clients, no less — that you don’t really get the “whole social media thing,” seems like agency suicide to me.

This really drives me crazy.  When established PR practioners stick their heads in the sand and insist that social media will go the way of VHS and cassette tapes, it makes the whole industry look old fashioned and unable to adjust to this new marketplace.  The ad agencies are cleaning our clock right now on the digital front.  The PR industry should be leading the charge, or at least locking arms with the advertising and digital guys and pushing forward at their side. Because no other marketing discipline knows more about building and leveraging relationships. And that’s what social media is all about.

The PR world is changing, and until we can all embrace it, we’re going to be left fighting for a seat at the table. True, Facebook probably won’t be the force it is now 10 years down the road, but something else will just replace it.  And I’m certain it will be digital and social in nature.

Now I’m off to listen to some Ke$ha on my iPhone…D-I-N-O-S-A  UR a dinosaur…and then Tweet about it.

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