Guest Blog: What Threatens the PR Industry?

Aaron Blank / May 3, 2016

Scott Hanson, the president of Fearey's Arizona PRGN office pens a guest blogs
Scott Hanson, the president of Fearey’s Arizona PRGN office pens a guest blog

This “guest” blog post is authored by Scott Hanson. Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a co-founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Scott and Pat Fearey co-founded PRGN in the 1990s. Check out Scott’s full bio here.


While having lunch with a colleague recently, he asked me: “What do you see as the biggest threat to PR?”

After a few moments of thought, I responded, “The tidal wave of new ‘news’ platforms coupled with the proliferation of ‘citizen journalists’ running or contributing to them.” While it’s not particularly a new position for me, I see it as a bad recipe for ensuring accuracy and credibility in messaging across the board.

It got me to thinking, what do other PR industry leaders from around the globe think?  So I asked a few of our Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) partners the same question. Here are their responses:

Evelyn John Holtzhausen, CEO of HWB Communications in Cape Town, South Africa, and PRGN’s president, said, “To me the biggest threat to the PR industry, set against the decline of print media (dead wood media) is the rise of media reach via software-collating content into vehicles such as Flipchart, Buzzfeed etc. (see Nuvi, Pressly, etc.) delivering “content” directly into our inboxes. This is happening at the same time as the headlong ascendancy of ‘Brand Newsrooms’ developed by advertising agencies. PR risks becoming redundant… or at most mere ‘content’ providers to ‘platforms’ developed outside our immediate environment leaving us to snatch for funding as event organizers while our turf is captured. We need to dig trenches and defend our borders with skill, knowledge and innovation – particularly as this new ‘trend’ plays in to the hands of the fast growing population of people with short spans of attention – thanks again to the rise of digital ‘soundbites’ against the decline and to the detriment – of print.”

Jim Bianchi, APR, president of Bianchi Public Relations in Detroit, stated, “The biggest threat to the PR industry is the #hashtagification of communication—that is, the tendency to want to communicate important ideas in 140-character memes that are hot now and forgotten in 8 minutes … and the shrinking attention span and focus this tendency is driving.”

Judy Kuramata, executive director of Integrate Communications in Tokyo, Japan, noted, “Growing social media impact. Clients are often mislead that ‘everyone can do PR’ without a PR agency. Also a misguided position from the client-side is that retainer fees have been dropping as ‘less demand for print media exposures’ is requested.”

Alessandra Malvermi, managing partner of Sound Public Relations in Milan, Italy, said, “In recent years PR has been evolving quite fast and the challenge nowadays is to be able to make its value more explicit and measurable. More than ever, PR has taken a strategic corporate function and it deserves to sit at the senior management table. The value of PR goes far beyond the Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs). That’s why the PR industry needs to define more strategic measurement practices.”

Valentina Giacaman Hazboun, founding partner of Rumbo Cierto in Santiago, Chile, commented, “The PR industry must learn to widen its scope from corporate positioning to crisis management, which is what customers who have failed to adapt their business structures to today’s world changes are now demanding.”

Christina Rytter, CEO of Coast Communications in The Netherlands, had this to say, “As I see it, the biggest threat to the PR industry is if a PR-person, agency or industry does not calibrate to digital communications, digital marketing and social media. Then you don’t have a future.“

Uwe Schmidt, CEO and co-owner of Industrie-Contact AG (IC AG) in Hamburg, Germany, reported, “In Germany there is a big ‘Content Marketing’ discussion. Another popular conversation theme: ‘Marketing Automation.’ And the latest buzzword coming around: ‘Omni-Channel Marketing.’ At the moment it seems to be that the PR industry has not the control over this discussion. This can end up as a real threat for the PR agencies if they do not have answers to the new demands of the clients. In this context I mean especially consumer clients. The B2B world is still quite old-school.”

C.L. Conroy, APR, founder, president and CEO of the Conroy Martinez Group in South Florida, replied, “Further extinction of media outlets—I don’t mean just printed ones either. Corporate decision makers’ lack of understanding what PR is!”

What say you?

Aaron Blank GIF

Aaron Blank

CEO & President, Partner

Aaron has been engaged in the conversation since the late 1990s, where he discovered his love of media while working at local radio stations. After five years as a radio reporter, anchor, producer and promoter in New York and Connecticut, he and his wife, Lacey, ventured west to begin his career in PR. Soon he caught the attention of industry legend Pat Fearey and the rest is history. Two decades later, as CEO and owner of Fearey, Aaron leads with tireless enthusiasm and contagious drive. In 2014, he became the next generation owner of the firm. He takes his breakfast at 4:30 AM and never eats lunch alone. You can find him working to connect the next business with tomorrow’s leader.

Personal philosophy: do something amazing every day and be fearless!