I took a college course in Public Relations while I was in journalism school at the University of Missouri -- circa 1978. I interned in the PR office of a private college and my first "real job" was as the PR Director at another private college. Holy cow, that was more than 30 years ago!
Since then, I went on to become the managing editor of a daily newspaper, then PR & Marketing director for a major health care system, then a trust marketing officer for a bank holding company, practice manager for a law firm and finally (in 1995) co-founder of Integrity Marketing Solutions, providing marketing services and consulting to estate and elder law attorneys.
PR and Marketing has changed tremendously since I first studied it back at MU! I was thinking that I could have become one of those stodgy, veteran "PR Professionals" who resist change, champion the old, formal ways of relating to the public (isn't that what public relations is all about?), and smugly ignore the online revolution of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Blogs, interactive websites and RSS feeds. To be perfectly honest, that sounds a lot easier, more comfortable and less time-consuming.
Unfortunately, the easy way is seldom the most profitable!
I am currently reading "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" by David Meerman Scott. Interestingly, the new rules are not entirely unlike the old rules, they are just applied differently. Using different technologies, different media. I find this a comforting thought. As an old dinosaur, I can wrap my mind around the concept of the new online social media as just another medium through which we develop meaningful, lasting relationships.
If I could transition from hot type through phototypesetting to Quark, from "the pit" in the belly of the newspaper office through the composing room to digital pagination at my laptop ... surely I can navigate my way around Technorati, Twitter, and Feedburner.
And I am not alone. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 73 percent of American adults say they use the internet. The internet and online social media have, as Scott says, "liberated" us to reach our target audiences directly. Instead of cultivating a few coveted relationships with key journalists and hoping for "publicity" in the mass media, we can now go directly to our audience(s) and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships. We can relate. With the public.
If you are an estate or elder law attorney who longs for the "good old days" when hanging a shingle was all you needed to bring clients in the door, (to quote the young kids) "I feel ya." I really do. If you wish social media would leave you alone, that birds were still the only ones twittering, and that telephones were still connected to the wall, "I feel ya."
But friends, it's a brave new world out there (yes, that phrase dates me as well). The new rules of marketing and public relations strike down the old rules. To coin Southwest Airlines, you are now free to move about the country!
And the best thing about the new rules? Your competitors probably don't know about them yet!
Pssst: You don't have to restrict your marketing to developing referral relationships with financial advisors who can send you clients. You can now deploy your website and social media to attract clients online, and you can do so without commiting "direct solicitation" violations!