Do PR people need new media skills?

There’s some interesting discussion on whether PR practitioners have the capabilities (or interest) to harness the new media tools. [Ref: Richard Bailey, Drewb, Mike Manuel]

However, I can’t help thinking that maybe that’s the wrong question.

Surely the question that’s more relevant is what skills and knowledge do practitioners need to effectively communicate with their audience(s) using traditional and new media tools.

For many audiences the new wave of Web 2.0 technologies are irrelevant (at this moment in time) and of course for many audiences the opposite is true.

I think it would be wrong for practitioners to jump on every new development just because it’s new. Instead we’d be better off properly understanding how our audiences are finding and sharing information and then using that knowledge to inform our campaigns and tactics.

If your client is a Web 2.0 wannabee, you need to be all over this area, if your client sells to senior citizens that’s a completely different scenario.

We need to be pragmatic in how we bring new tools to our campaigns. That doesn’t mean slow, that means pragmatic.

At the most basic level, I think we can all agree that the vast majority of Internet users start with a search engine – but how many practitioners know about search engine optimization? In my experience between few and none.

I would agree that as a profession we’re very very slow to adopt new technology. This is a profession-wide weakness. However I’d also strongly counsel against adopting technology for technology’s sake. That is just as misguided as the former.

If PR practitioners take a pragmatic and open minded approach to the impact of Web 2.0 on their AUDIENCE, then we’ll find the right path and the right balance.

Neither of the alternatives to that approach make commercial or professional sense (in my very humble opinion).

As these tools and channels mature we’re seeing more interesting and complex discussions around where they fit in and how they impact reputation. For a very interesting post click over to Elizabeth Albrycht’s post.