When I got into technology public relations back in 1998, we were approaching the peak of the Internet bubble. Just as technology was disrupting the business models of pretty much every company on the planet, PR was going through its own innovation cycle. We were shifting from faxing pitch letters and mailing press kits, to email and online press rooms. And while 2001 saw the Internet bubble pop in a big way, the societal, business and economic changes ushered in by the Internet boom were pervasive and lasting.
Fast forward ten years to 2008, and we were again going through significant change in terms of business, economics and PR practices. This time the disruptions were focused on housing, finance and politics, as we saw Lehman’s fall and President Obama’s rise while economists were forecasting doom in a way unseen since the Great Depression. But amid that sobering backdrop, I was living professionally in a mini-bubble driven by the rapid growth of cleantech which was revolutionizing the way energy was being produced and consumed. This growth would help forward-looking agencies stave off some of the pain of the Great Recession, as it helped offset the impacts of traditional technology companies cutting their spending.
Amid the economic turmoil, there was again a shift in PR practices as blogs and the proliferation of social media gave us new insights into the personas, preferences and practices of our number-one constituent: journalists. Thursday deadlines, email pitching and mass pre-briefs under embargo became less critical, with texting, tweeting and SEO-boosting online exclusives becoming more commonplace.
For 16 years (eight each in both Boston and San Francisco), I was fortunate enough to watch these disruptions from the desk of a single employer. I saw hundreds of colleagues come and go, and worked with dozens of companies in cloud infrastructure and applications, information security, open source, mobile, consumer, Internet of Things, Web 2.0 and a number of other markets. That professional stability allowed me to focus more on industry disruption versus occupational disruption, with the conscious mindset that I would only usher in the latter if faced with an outstanding opportunity.
Today, society and more specifically the PR industry is in the midst of a new wave of disruptions which are pervasive and again, will have lasting impact. These disruptions are impacting the economy and society at large, along with how we do our jobs as PR professionals. From a PR standpoint, it is the realization that “the hit” is no longer endgame for a news announcement or campaign, but really the midway point. The advent of content marketing and publishing, and amplification services means that PR professionals are no longer just selling stories—they’re telling them. More subtle but just as important is the shift from a product PR mindset (embargo, launch, rinse, repeat), to a thought-leadership mindset (continuous dialogue and mind share) that better suits today’s world of Twitter, Vine, LinkedIn and Medium, versus the 20th century PR world of Thursday deadlines and the almighty print clip.
The technological and societal changes are even more substantial than what is happening in PR. Boiled down to the lowest common denominator, the technology driving these changes are “sensors.” The convergence of cheap processing, radios and storage, massive bandwidth, near-ubiquitous connectivity, and cloud-based applications are driving the ability to remotely and implicitly gather information in a way that is changing the way we consume and interact with products and services. The most sophisticated of these sensors are smartphones and consumer electronics, which—enabled by the cloud and mobile innovations of last decade—are driving a new level of audience engagement and personalization. The data generated by these sensors is being collected and analyzed, spawning the growth of big data analytics and applications. The resulting analytics are being used to improve business efficiency, better serve customers and disrupt business models (sharing economy, crowd funding, etc.) in ways not seen since the late 1990s. The Internet-of-Things, powered by smart sensors, mobile and cloud, and fine-tuned based on big data analytics, is the single most disruptive trend in technology today. That disruption needs a PR partner.
I believe we are at the forefront of the changes taking place in the PR industry and better suited than any other prospective PR partner to leverage those changes for the benefit of companies in technology-related markets. InkHouse was purpose-built to serve the constantly evolving needs of the industries and companies driving disruption, with substance-based PR campaigns that drive business results. Silicon Valley is one of the epicenters of that disruption.
If you couldn’t tell from the length of this post, I am excited for the incredible new opportunity at InkHouse San Francisco and the occupational disruption it has ushered into my life for the first time in 16 years. If you made it this far with me, I would love to hear from you and learn about the disruption you’re driving, embracing or navigating.
Jason is president of InkHouse and leads operations from the firm's San Francisco office. His singular mission is to debunk the myth that people can't be happy long term on the agency side of PR where he has spent more than 20 years working with companies in technology and consumer. Jason's Election Day focus will be supporting the issues and candidates that he believes will make the world a better place for his wife and three kids (19, 17 and 13).