Digital Darwinism: don’t miss the turning!

Digital Darwinism

Don't miss the turning! Credit: Yaban / photocase.com

My post last week looked directly at the importance of bloggers and why the public relations industry needs to embrace them. Within the context of the digital space, the following are now unquestionable:

  • The Web has changed the way consumers and businesses behave.
  • Every business has customers who are on the Web.
  • The Web has dramatically impacted on the traditional marketing funnel.
  • A Web presence is critical for the vast majority of businesses.
  • The Social Web, or Web 2.0, has only served to accelerate the impacts.

All of the above have a huge impact on communications strategy and public relations and as the McKinsey Global Survey of 792 marketing executives said at the end of 2011:

  • “Marketing executives overwhelmingly agree that an effective online presence is very or extremely important for staying competitive—81 percent of them say so.”
  • “digital media and tools have changed companies’ ability to interact with and serve new customers”
  • “71 percent say data-driven customer insights will be very or extremely important to their companies’ competitiveness during the next two to four years”

Brian Solis describes the major issue perfectly in his book, “The End of Business As Usual”. He evokes the concept of Digital Darwinism originally coined by Evan I Schwartz as long ago as 1999: “The reality is that we live and compete in a perpetual era of Digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than our ability to adapt.”

And David Meerman Scott emphasised the point by managing to find iPads online in the middle of a Panamanian jungle this week!

The evolution continues and the pace does not let up. Social media is where news breaks and the majority of the younger generations in the western world spend their time, learning, discussing, sharing and interacting. The impact of this on traditional media is there for all to see with dropping circulation figures and struggling advertising models, but that is a subject for another day.

Looking at the impact on comms and PR, there are some bright lights who are leading the way, a great recent example being Lewis PR, whose CEO and Founder, Chris Lewis recently stated:

“Social media is evolving fast. It is merging with journalism and Public Relations and hence the communications industry is undergoing seismic change. This process has been called disintermediation but it’s more like disintegration of the status quo . . . the digital communications halo is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for customer service or advocacy, it has moved to the core of the marketing function.”

Change is often challenging. “Seismic change” even more so. One wonders how comfortable the majority of the PR industry is with it? The CIPR appears to have recognised the challenge. In a recent series of reviews conducted with its members, two of the recommendations for action in the final report “PR 2020: The Future of Public Relations” were:

  • Practitioners need to move faster to develop their knowledge of digital communication.
  • Change should be embraced.

Wise words, but is the PR industry really ready for the changes in direction needed to keep up with digital evolution? Or, like the music industry in the 90′s, are they about to miss the turning?

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