I just read through a thought provoking article over at Silicon Valley Watcher, where Tom Foremski raises an interesting question "With all the disruption that is going on in the mainstream media industry, where is the disruption in the mainstream public relations industry?" Noting that one would expect to find a "corresponding shake up in both industries" because one is dependent on the other.
Immediately I thought, while it's true that public relations agencies value their relationships with media - and their clients value media coverage - public relations is about a lot more than media relations. At its core, public relations is about communicating, and companies have a need to communicate well with many different groups of 'publics' that are all important to their businesses. Besides handling media relationships, we also help clients communicate better with their employees, government, developer communities and academics just to name a few, and we help them measure the value of that communication in very tangible ways. Sure we reach some of these groups through media, but not always.
And public relations agencies - at least good ones - are adapting to the increasing influence of blogs and other forms of peer media, helping their clients navigate that new landscape as well.
If we're seeing public relations agencies thrive while conventional media struggles, it's because companies use communications for more than placing media coverage. And I think there will always be a place for public relations agencies that can help them engage with groups that are important to them.
Thanks to Tom for raising the question - time will tell!