Watts Wacker, one of our country’s foremost futurists, told a group of 185 PRSA Counselors Academy members yesterday that digital technology and the disintermediation of traditional news, information, and media channels augers well for public relations and ill for traditional advertising.
Wacker says today’s society is all about relationships and rapport. People want to meet and speak with people like themselves. People who share their views, their likes and their loves. As a result, wikis, blogs and podcasts are gaining in popularity while the old 30-second commercial that talks "at" consumers is becoming an endangered species.
Wacker challenged the PR executives attending the Counselors Spring conference to figure out how to communicate with these new, technology-enabled mass markets and stay away from traditional marketing channels.
As the world becomes increasingly uncertain, the consumer turns increasingly to those who he or she trusts most, said Wacker. So, PR pros need to figure out who these influencers are and engage them in dialogue with, and about, our clients and their goods and services. PR is beautifully positioned to connect these disparate, technology-enabled groups and show our clients how to build relationships with them. Wacker said he has "relationships" with three manufacturers and belongs to online affinity groups of individuals who share his product passions with those manufacturers. They exchange views and recommendations on everything from household appliances to the best restaurants to frequent when traveling to new cities. Becoming part of that dialogue and building credibility within those circles is the challenge facing marketers today and tomorrow.
And, advertising’s future in today’s brave new world? Wacker predicts a 24-hour, all-advertising cable network which will run nothing but ads. We’ll watch the ads and then use our cell phones to not only comparison shop, but purchase and arrange for delivery. But, says Wacker, the final purchase will once again be based on informed information from our virtual (and physical) relationship network.
Wacker is a fascinating guy. And, I can’t wait to see how his thinking plays out.