It’s taken absolutely no time for the phrase “disrupt your brand before it gets disrupted” to turn into one of the biggest clichés in PR and marketing circles.
But it’s a cliché because it’s true.
PR pros now face a marketing world fraught with change, and if anybody tells you they know how to keep up, take it with a grain of salt.
The evidence is overwhelming. In just a few short years social media has upended decades of established PR and marketing practices and started to move to the core of business communications.
The tremendous rise of social media also has wrought tremendous change in media distribution, media consumption and, perhaps most important to PR managers, consumer behavior.
And the scary part is that it’s still early days for social media. Just wait till companies figure out how to make social media programs flow right to the bottom line.
But, when it comes to disruption, technological change is only part of the story.
Major brands and organizations are also making structural and cultural changes in their operations, which, like social channels, are likely to have a major impact on how the company communicates with customers, prospects, the media and other stakeholders.
Indeed, macro trends in the workplace demand that senior PR professionals start to think about how they can influence marked change in the business, rather than just executing new media strategies.
On Tuesday, for example, the San Antonio Spurs hired six-time WNBA all-star Becky Hammon as the NBA’s first female, regular season, full-time assistant coach. Follow this move to a logical conclusion and how long before we have the first female head coach in the NBA?
Then there’s the recent cover story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek titled, “Burger King is Run by Children.” It talks about the challenges faced by CEO Daniel Schwartz, 33, and CFO Joshua Kobza, 28, in reinventing the fast-food chain. In some enterprise companies, Schwartz and Kobza might still be working at the entry level. But at Burger King, which dates back to 1954, they’re running the joint.
Along with embracing failure as a way to fuel success, some brands and organizations are also making changes that may seem radical, but, when you peel the layers, actually reveal sound thinking about future trends in the workplace, not to mention a healthy aversion to conventional thinking.
PR pros have traditionally been the voice of the reason, telling senior executives who are not used to being second-guessed that they may not have the best idea and that the “visionary” plan that’s being bandied about may be counterproductive to the overall goals of the company.
In light of the accelerated pace of both cultural and economic changes, communicators must take their counsel to a new level.
They’ve nicely bolted on the strategic to the tactical. Now they need to incorporate the foundational, showing managers at the tippy top how secular changes in culture, business and demographics could have a profound effect on the company, its products and/or services, even thought it may not seem that way.
If you need any more evidence why companies need to rattle the cage and toss out the new-old playbook, just check out the Fortune 500 list from 1980. Plenty of those companies are gone. Just think of what the next 34 years holds in store. PR pros need to buckle up and drive change, no matter how radical it may seem on paper.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1