A Changing PR World seen through a Tech Lens

While the fundamentals of PR haven’t changed so dramatically since I fell into PR twenty years ago, working practices definitely have, much of which technology has been responsible for. When a couple of the more, ahem, experienced members of Octopus Group and I got together to take a trip down memory lane, we were quickly transported back to the ‘good-old, slow-old days’. It turns out these days are about as alien to generation Y as life before a typewriter seems to me!


A 10 year tech window into a PR world changed forever:


1995: Agencies had a dedicated computer to connect to the ‘world wide web’ which was a novelty piece of kit; over-head projectors were not uncommon for pitches – slides were printed onto acetate!


1996: Posting letters to clients was the defacto form of formal client communication and you had to go to the local library to research for a new business pitch


1997: Charging clients £1+ for every fax and email sent was still a widespread agency practice…


1999: Press releases were sent by post with hours spent printing off labels, stuffing envelopes and franking them – a sell-in was a two-day affair! Press-pack production was a major part of an Account Exec’s job


2000: Bigger tech PR budgets meant taxis to all client meets was the norm and two hour press lunches a weekly fixture


2001: Clippings agencies sent actual clippings, meaning you then had to stick them all in a coverage book courtesy of a Pritt Stick and scissors…the thud factor meant something! Google emerged as the primary search engine


2002: The Dotcom bubble had burst…and the tech new business hotline didn’t ring for six months. Bulletin boards like AOL were where all the online chat was taking place but a pretty low-priority for PRs


2003: Ashtrays on the desk weren’t unusual and mobile phones were still mainly used for talking to people!


2004: Press photography had moved on from 35mm slides stuck to paper to being sent out on CD-Roms; MySpace was the social media big daddy


2005: The front page of the FT trumped everything when it came to B2B media coverage and online coverage still ‘didn’t count’


Today, things are certainly faster, more intense and more professional then they used to be but technology still continues to change our industry as it has done over the last 20 years. I can’t wait to see how it will shape the way we operate over the next 20 years – on this evidence, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.