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MartinWaxman130In early June, Martin Waxman will be speaking at the IABC World Conference on the Social Media Barometer. Here, he gives IABC Victoria a sneak preview.

I started out in PR as an entertainment publicist and was really proud of what I did. I knew – and so did my clients – that I could call a journalist and more often than not, they’d run with my story.  And that would sell tickets or books, or get people to an event.

Then I became a PR agency professional and had to learn a whole new vocabulary – corporate-speak – and refer to publicity as media relations.

These days, I’m just @martinwaxman and, like many of you, I live a lot more of my life in public and my personal and professional worlds collide all the time in ways I would have never imagined.

To paraphrase author, professor and digital strategist Clay Shirky, where there was once scarcity (as in few media), we now have abundance (social media), amateurs competing directly with professionals every day.

We now live in a place where an astronaut can record a cover of a David Bowie song – in space – and his video goes viral immediately, a doctor can offer a folksy approach to health that over four million people watched and shared, and my daughter’s first year university residence gets 160,000 views for their version of the Harlem Shake.


How can we compete with that?

Things have changed. And traditional PR just doesn’t perform the way it used to.

I’ve noticed several emerging trends that are reshaping our profession and the way we communicate:

New generation gap

There's a clash of generations in the workplace. Boomers are still in charge, reluctantly passing the torch to GenX. And yet Millennials have another view and see things through a different lens – Google glass perhaps. Many Millennials don’t think about traditional media at all when they search for information and news. They rely on social networks. They're outlet agnostic. And that's where we all seem to be heading.

21st century moguls in waiting

If you watch Mad Men, it seems like such a charming, simple time. Nowadays, wide screen TVs don't seem to be big enough anymore. We need a second – or third – screen to keep up with the commentary, behind the scenes and the shows themselves. When it filed for its IPO, Facebook said 85 per cent of its revenues came from advertising. YouTube offers production deals to professionals and amateurs. And Twitter announced its IPO with a tweet.  All of these companies are looking for new ways to serve up ads that look like editorial while demonstrating the ROI of promoted posts.

The old big three of US television used to be ABC, CBS and NBC, now we have a new big three Facebook, Google/YouTube and Twitter, with LinkedIn in the role of Wall Street Journal and Pinterest as Life, the specialty network.

Going digital first

Meanwhile, many traditional media are adopting a digital first approach and leaving print behind, including the world's oldest newspaper. And yet some PR folks still regard the news release as the ultimate answer. They don’t realize the question has changed.


What's the future bring? 

I believe we should focus on three things:

1. Strategy – Lead with creativity. Think beyond the not one-off and figure out how to build engagement over time. Understand the metrics and what catches on and always be ready to adapt.

2. Training – Learn and then teach. There's an opportunity for us to be more like management consultants – that is, listen, train and then step back and offer counsel on both the strategic and tactical fronts.

3. Content – In a world where community management is the new PR, start thinking like a publisher and a publicist. Our stories should entertain, educate and engage. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in showbiz!


Those are some of the things I’m going to be talking about in my presentation to the IABC World Conference in Toronto. If you’re going, I hope you can drop by to say hello.

And thank you to Zora Artis, who’s coordinating the marketing stream for the event and who will be introducing my session, for contacting me and asking me to do this post.

I’m interested to hear what you think and if you have anything to add.


Martin Waxman is a digital, social media and communications strategist, executive vice president of Thornley Fallis and co-founder of three PR agencies. He has worked in communications and PR for 25 years, and specializes in social and digital media, social media training, consumer marketing, product launches, corporate and internal communications and entertainment.