By Greg Hazley
PR agencies are made up of "generalists" in an era moving toward specialties, a situation creating a massive talent shortage in PR, according to Edelman's Chicago president and former digital chief Rick Murray, who discussed the changing PR landscape in an address at the Omaha 10-10-10 conference last month in Nebraska.
"There is a massive, massive talent shortage out there," he said, adding the "role of the future" in PR is that of community manager. "Tell somebody you want to be a community manager and that you've had opporunity to engage and you know how to engage in social media and you will get a job. It is a huge, huge, high-potential, high-impact position and everybody is looking for this right now."
Murray said the majority of agency pros are generalists when clients today are increasingly looking for specialists, especially in digital.
"That is going to force people like me to really reshape our organization," he said. "[It's] not going to happen overnight. But I think that the teams, businesses and PR firms of the future are going to look a lot different than the PR firms of today."
Murray says that if PR is to grow beyond its scope in the marketing mix, a talent void will become apparent.
"We're 3,400 people on a global scale and PR right now is only five percent of the mix," he said. "If PR doubles in size, we don't have the skill sets available to find those people fast enough, to ramp fast enough. Not just Edelman, but the business as a whole. The reality is there aren't enough people to get the work done that needs to get done."
In the 15-minute clip below, Murray also discussed other changes in PR, tracing the last decade from the Pets.com sock puppet to MySpace's founding and his own firm's investment in digital communications. Clip books, once a $20M revenue stream for his agency, are essentially gone and PR has evolved from an industry that was previously "paid to try, not to win," he said.
"Increasingly we don't see the difference between digital and analog," he said. "It is just PR."