PRSA Conference Keynote Bob Garfield–hitting all the right notes

November 12, 2009

I’ve read Bob Garfield for years and am sorry I am missing the PRSA conference this year–first year in many that I’ve missed it. The report of Garfield’s keynote is right on target in my mind and very necessary for crisis communicators. The message is simple–it’s a completely different world out there.

Here’s a key quote:

“The digital revolution isn’t some kind of news magazine headline,” he said. “It’s an actual revolution yielding revolutionary changes including, but not limited to, the disintegration of the media and marketing infrastructures that have worked in perfect symbiosis for almost four centuries.”

The “disintegration of the media and marketing infrastructures…” “perfect symbiosis for almost four centuries.”

On the one hand, what we are seeing is unprecedented on a scale of Gutenberg. On the other hand, it is following predictable patterns. When I was growing up in mid-50s, there were a handful of magazines that existed and were read by millions: Time, Life, Look, Good Housekeeping, etc. By the time I was teaching in the mid-70s, many were gone and were replaced by hundreds of thousands of much more special interest publications. By the time I was in business in the mid to late 80s, I was publishing 5 very special interest monthly magazines myself and by now there were millions. Today, there are hundreds of millions–but increasingly using the internet for publishing rather than paper, ink and the US Postal Service. Is publishing dead because Life and Look are gone forever? Heck no! Publishing is alive and well and being done by almost everyone who has the slightest desire to put words on a screen.

PR isn’t dead–the opportunities are more pressing than ever. Crisis communication isn’t dead just because the game has shifted from talking to a few reporters with massive audiences to talking to massive audiences who talk to a few reporters. We’ve just gone from control to engagement, from speaking to participation.


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