Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Judgment vs. Enthusiasm: A PR Crossroads

Lately, I've noticed a flurry of conversation surrounding a particular dilemma in the new age of PR and social media: judgment vs. enthusiasm. All the big boys seem to be talking about it ...

In an era of increasing transparency, leaders in the PR industry are battling over which type of practitioner is more vital to the success of their agencies - is it the wise, senior-level professional who has the experience to exercise the best judgment, or rather the social media-savvy youth, enthusiastic and eager to engage in all things fresh and new?

In David Meerman Scott's new rules of marketing & PR job description post, he advocates the importance of the latter. While he makes no mention of their age, he stresses that companies are looking for "smart people" to fill a new, atypical job description that fits into the the new age of PR. The description, developed by Jeff Ernst, VP of marketing at Kadient, looks something like this:

"She (or he) created her Facebook profile well before any of her buddies did, then encouraged them all to join, and now has 700 friends on Facebook. She writes her own blog where she talks about her favorite bands. She loves to experiment with new ways to drive traffic to her blog. She's read David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, and is passionate about combining her love for social media with her work by applying the new rules in a B2B marketing environment."

Ernst's new media job description makes an excellent point about the newly desired qualifications of PR practitioners. The only problem I see here is no mention of a judgment requirement, and after reading Paul Holmes' article, "A Manifesto for the 21st Century Public Relations Firm," I have never been more convinced of its importance. Sure, it's fun and easy to think new media can solve all public relations problems, but it takes carefully executed good judgment to keep transparency in check, otherwise the outcome might be more harmful than helpful. As Todd Defren affirms, "Even the best intentions might be met with a sneer of indignation." With the emergence of Web 2.0, there is no room for rash, devil-may-care PR decisions.

Certainly, the logical conclusion is that PR firms will need to hire people who are some sort of hybrid of the two personae, which is exactly what Holmes' attempts to bring home in his manifesto:

"Finding people who can combine youthful enthusiasm and good judgment ... will be critical to the success of the 21st century public relations agency."

This is exactly the type of PR professional we should all aspire to be. Be a part of this budding class, and you'll be one fine catch ... without a doubt.

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