PR needs innovationPosted: March 16, 2010
I’ve been reading Change by Deign written by Tim Brown, IDEOs CEO. It’s a good read and really gets you thinking. Relatively early in the book he quotes Henry Ford who, when talking about his first car said: “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” His point being that real innovation requires people to think beyond the current way of doing things. He goes on to say that you can actually learn more from the people at the fringes than you can from the masses. What he’s saying is that the people who are distorting the use of a product can tell you more about how to improve it than those that are simply using it in the way it was intended.
All this got me thinking about innovation and PR and I quickly concluded that our industry has been focused for years on incremental innovation. Indeed, it’s hard to think of any true game changing innovation. Press releases, product reviews, profile pieces, consumer stunts etc etc. When the Internet started to play a role in PR, the email pitch got developed and we discovered how to create micro sites. When social media came along we developed (or Todd Defren’s guys did) the Social Media Press Release and we learned about Facebook communities and Tweeting. In short there was some good innovation but it wasn’t innovation in the way Tim Brown would use the word. It wasn’t someone dreaming up a car, when there used to be horses. It’s my belief that the industry is at a point in its history where that kind of innovation is really needed and the opportunity for it really exists.
I’m afraid I don’t come to you with the answer here but hopefully someone out there has figured out that in the same way as the stagecoach business was a transport business and thus could have transformed into an airline business, the PR business is a reputation business and can be transformed from a largely influence based model to a business that actually manages reputations far more directly. The person who really figures this out has the chance to completely reconfigure the market. When they do, the list of major PR firms will look a lot different.