PR Agencies to adapt to avoid extinction.

I read with interest of this research by Canadian press republished on BtoBonline which states  that print trade are still of similar importance today as they were in 2004;  that may be true but the number of print trade media in business to business has collapsed in my experience.
The survey, conducted by Starch Research Services for Canadian Business Press, found that the perception of print trade magazines changed very little between 2004 and 2010. In 2004, 69% of respondents to a similar survey said specialized business publications were “very useful”; this year 67% held the same view.
In 2004, the same study found that 53% found the Web “very useful.” By 2010 76% of the  respondents believe the Internet to be “very useful” as a source for business information.
Print may still hold credibility, but by all accounts not profitability. According to  Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu 2009 market prediction study, 10% of all publications would be obliged to reduce circulation, frequency or cease publishing in order to remain profitable in that year, and this trend would continue.

When I set up EASTWEST PR in 1995 there were some 15 IT print media in Singapore, today there are only a handful left, and there is talk of these merging or going 100% online. Print media may have the same credibility but no where near the same circulation, frequency or number of pages to be read. If the report is to be believed, their predicament will only worsen. As a result we have to change the way that we evaluate our ROI on PR for a client. Trade press clippings just aren’t sufficient. An article in the Financial Times this week describes how advertisers are using tools like Nielson Buzzmetrics, Commscores Media Metrix and Google Trends to measure social media mentions of brands, and no longer relying on the ratings of the the traditional media to plan their media buying. PR agencies must adopt the same by following the sources of the conversation well beyond the pages of print. EASTWEST does this by using tools including SocialMention for English and Qihoo for Chinese. At EASTWEST our campaigns have to cater to the established credibility of traditional media outlets whilst recognizing their diminished stature; it is a balancing act as clients still favour print media.   We are approaching the tipping point, although it may take a generational change, but the agency must also pose viable alternatives for clients to measure the performance of public relations. If agencies don’t mirror the change in the fortunes of print they will also slide into anonymity; taking their clients with them.

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