Convergence in Public Relations?

A. Introduction

Today, an overwhelming surge of new technologies and social media innovations is altering the media landscape to a great extent. According to Zoch and Smith, “convergence suggests that media organizations that once might have been rivals now combine efforts and work together” (2002, p.12). Convergence is the process by which various forms of electronic technology combine news- gathering and reporting efforts into a single device using diverse media for example mobile phones, Internet and blogs to broadcast messages to mass audiences. It can be seen everywhere and it has never been easier to reach mass audiences.
However, for PR practitioners it will be harder than ever to connect with them. Undoubtedly, this will affect the way consumers, stakeholders, customers and the general public behave with regard to accessing information.

B. Trends that shape society

What used to be a narrow availability in media, such as movies or Cd's, has now become a multidimensional business. This means that the more companies are present in digital networks, like mobile networks, online stores and social communities the more profit they can generate by being ubiquitous. According to van Grove (2009), more videos were uploaded to YouTube in the last two months than if abc and NBC had been airing new content 24/7, 365 days a year, since 1948. Being more technical savvy, customers will become more demanding in their relations with companies. Therefore, it will be crucial for PR practitioners to effectively develop and implement meaningful and strong relationships among organisations, stakeholders and consumers in order to meet their needs.
Providing updated information of the company’s strategies and goals online will offer consumers the opportunity to interact, share opinions and give feedback, which will further the flow of two-way-communication.
The Cluetrain Manifesto by Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger examines this particular issue of one-way-communication campaigns. The authors state, “running cool ‘street-cred’ campaigns does not create conversation…organisations must enable human conversations, between the humans that work for them, and the humans who buy from them” (2009, p.147).
However, another trend that impacts media at large and PR in particular is the significant decline of prices for technical devices such as laptops and free access to the Internet. What does this mean for the so-called underdeveloped countries? Sooner or later, these devices will be freely available because networks operating with these devices will give them to the people in order to have more value on the network. Clearly, it will be cheaper to provide computers to people and win them as new customers than sell these devices for $100 These new available technologies provide a huge potential for global communication. With regards to PR, this means that practitioners need to develop communication skills that internalise knowledge of various cultural habits “in order to handle requests by foreign media and to craft culturally sensitive messages to international publics” (Zoch & Smith, 2002, p.12).

C. Facets of the future of PR

How can PR use convergence to its advantage? Was Daniel J. Edelman (2006) right predicting ‘The Golden Age Of Public Relations’? Where does convergence end or was Philip K. Dick (1968) right asking `[Will] Androids [soon] dream of electric sheep?´  


Clearly, one of the big challenges for PR practitioners will be to understand the impact media convergence has on stakeholders, customers and consumers and to effectively respond to the shift of media innovations taking into account how publics now seek information. As Christ states, “the Internet is becoming the key initial contact point for communicating with stakeholders” (2005, p.139).
PR practitioners of the future will know what the client’s next questions are before the client even asks them. Speed with regards to the information flow based on detailed research will be of the upmost importance. Knowledgeable consumers will demand more transparency, trust and credibility concerning corporate communication. Therefore, PR practitioners will have to think of new ways such as interactive consumer platforms to achieve mutual appreciation between an organisation and its consumers so that both parties can benefit from each other. Eventually, PR practitioners will become what Paul Bergetvin in PR Professionals of the future calls ‘Direct Content Creators’ with the opportunity to cut through the information clutter by creating customized messages that meet the consumers’ needs.

However, that gives readers some ideas of the sprinkling of some of the media trends that are part of their lives today and certainly rushing towards them tomorrow.

D. References
Christ, P. (2005). Internet Technologies And Trends Transforming Public Relations. Journal Of Website Promotion, 1(4), 3-14.

Dawson, R. (2006). Six Facets Of The Future Of PR. Marketing Magazine, March, 44-45.

Dick, P. K. (1968). Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. Signet Books: New York, NY.

Edelman, D. J. (2006). The Golden Age Of Public Relations. Public Relations Quarterly, Spring, 20-21.

Levine, R., Locke, C., Searls, D., Weinberger, D., & McKee, J. (2009). The Cluetrain Manifesto. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Van Grove, J. (2009). Youtube Is Huge And About To Get Even Bigger. Retrieved February 5, 2010 from http://mashable.com/2009/05/20/youtube-video- uploads/.

Zoch, L. M., & Smith, K. (2002). The Challenges Of Media Convergence. TACTICS, June, 12-13.



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