This question continues to be the topic of a lot of conversation, but of course there isn’t a simple yes or no answer. I recently attended a PRSA event that proposed just this question with guest speaker Frank Mungeam, Director of Digital Media for KGW-NBC News Channel 8. Mungeam led into the event by answering this hot topic question, stating “yes absolutely and no, absolutely not!” From this point on we were hooked to see what his expertise would unveil.

Here are some insights into where the ever-changing industry of both digital and PR is taking us:

We all know by now that there has been a power shift from brands to customers. Yes, brands still do hold an immense amount of power. However, customers have even more as they are the decision makers, the influencers and ultimately can create a paramount of success or downfall for the brand.

The power of digital via social media (e.g., Twitter and Facebook), Google, blogs and customer review websites (e.g., Yelp) provide customers with the biggest tool: the exchange of knowledge. They are able to easily voice their opinions and make their opinions heard through digital — not only by fellow customers but by the brands they are speaking to and about.

As the value of free media is exploding, users are constantly generating fresh content and are sharing it amongst their social mediums. With this being said, whose opinions do we value the most? We value — as we always have — our families and friends, co-workers, mentors and decision makers who influence our choices. And digital mediums have made it easier for those influences to be shared. Companies are realizing this and are primarily focusing on their customers and getting them on their good side and having them stay there.

Yet, without the power and sway of PR professionals stepping in what strength would companies, brands, services and products possess? There is a dire need to have a PR team at your side to help manage the pitfalls and moments of success. Communication is key and no one knows how to finesse the power of the media and customers better than PR pros.

To all our PR professionals out there: what is the most critical component and skill to possess regardless of your occupation? Listening! Listen to your clients, customers and influencers. What are they saying about your client and/or product? They are giving you critical information: talk less and listen more. Cater to what various people and press are saying to get the message that you want out to the public. What is meaningful to them? Then use those finessing skills and personalize your message to the audience that you are appealing to. Without PR would your clients know how to elevate their brand? Storytelling is a skill that is essential in getting your information out.

Yes digital is taking over, but this just means that the PR world is adapting and finding new ways to do their outreach. Just think of us as chameleons, we are ever-changing, always listening and we will get your message out!

“The future isn’t either traditional or digital: it’s a feedback loop between the two. It’s how creative we are in engaging those fans — and keeping them connected…that will determine how potent and profitable we will be in the future.”

–          Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment at Fox Broadcasting.

Monica Komperda