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PRWeek Claims Industry Enters Age of PR 3.0 – They Couldn’t be More Wrong


Almost within 24 hours of going on record stating that we will (should) not see anyone referring to PR 3.0 anytime soon, PRWeek runs an article about how the industry is entering a new age: PR 3.0. Hat tip to Constantin Basturea.

Excerpt from my post, “And let me point out, that there will not be a 3.0 or any other rev numbers, unless there is another tremendous evolution, fusion, or breakthrough in the practice, science, and art of communications.”

The flagship publication that has made a business out of documenting “what is” versus “what is…changing” without necessarily helping their readers understand the evolution, decided to place a stake in the ground and call attention to their forward-looking vision, or as some would say, ignorance.

I guess they missed the whole fact that the industry was still coming to terms with how the Web swept the rug from underneath it, thus changing the game forever, and threatening the eradication of generations of less-than-web-savvy PR professionals.

And what’s even worse, is that in this age of Social Media, I couldn’t even comment on the article. I was given a link to

According to Julia Hood, EIC of PR Week, “PR has gone through other incarnations in the past, but what is happening now is so fundamental, it can only be described as the next iteration of the industry – or PR 3.0, as we have designated it.”


Stating that the industry is entering the age of PR 3.0 is absurd, premature, and irresponsible. If anything, this article could have validated PR 2.0, but instead they chose to leapfrog it.

Here’s her argument for PR 3.0 has they “have designated it:”

“Staffing has been on the increase”

“… increasing revenue per employee…”

“…an average of 17% growth among firms that reported the previous year.”

“Edelman’s astounding 26% growth…”

“…Schwartz Communications pulled in 22% growth, Qorvis increased by 31%, Taylor (formerly Alan Taylor Communications) was up by 36%, and Integrated Corporate Relations showed a 48% rise…”

PRWeek’s rationale for evolving into PR 3.0 is driven by revenue? Are you kidding me? Some of our other friends tracking the economy might call this growth, or an upward trend. But to call it an entirely new era of PR is laughable, sensationalist, and so off the mark that it demonstrates why PR and spin go hand in hand.

Oh yes, we’re living in a time where PR has evolved more in the last 10 years than it has in the last 100. The press release is finally evolving, the Web is now interactive, citizens are now more than journalists – they’re influencers, and Internet marketing is driving new PR campaigns. Social media has, and will only increase, in its influence for redefining not just PR, but all media in general.

Honestly, I’m still defending, justifying, and defining the ideas and principles behind PR 2.0 and social media and how it all integrates into traditional PR. This is where the discussions need to focus in order to improve the industry, and, it can only be done through art and practice, not through revenue.

I’m talking about PR for the PR – forcing the discussion outside of the likes of PRWeek and into global forums where people can exchange real world information in order to share and learn from each other in the face of the new web and Social Media.

The idea and the mantra behind the PR 2.0 movement is to reach PR people outside of the echo chamber to help them evolve, improve their game, learn the technology that’s driving social media, and most importantly, participate in the conversations taking place without them (not initially as a PR, but as a regular person genuinely engaged in conversations to participate and learn.)

Social media and (PR 2.0) is about respect, passion, conversation, and insight. It so much more than blogger relations, wikis, social networks, Second Life, blogs, tags, podcasts, etc. Those are merely the tools used to engage in the conversation. But PR is all about, or should be about, knowledge, understanding of the markets, and the channels used to reach them with the most compelling and meaningful messages.

New PR, PR 2.0, whatever you want to call it, is more about being “smart” enough to participate at an entirely new and more valuable level of engagement. It’s about reading the publications, blogs, networks, where you want to participate. It’s about living and breathing the product/service we represent.

It’s the difference between spin and evangelism.

It’s also the difference between storytelling and influence.

It all eventually merges back into PR – with a long trail of communications professionals that will be forced to jump ship for the betterment of the PR industry as a whole.

With Web 2.0 attracting mainstream attention, PR 2.0 (and everything 2.0) has PR and marketing professionals drooling while seeing dollar signs – rejoicing that their ship has come in. Yes, unfortunately, it shows in the numbers. But I’d like to think that this is an opportunity for PR professionals to put the “pro” back in their title.

PR 2.0 is not because of Web 2.0. It is because of the Web – or the Live Web as Doc Searls calls it. The evolution of the Web has forced communi
cations professionals to step out from behind the “great wall of PR” to interact with the people formerly known as the
audience and the “people” aka influencers aka experts that also reach them.

The interactivity of the web, combined with the ability to transform readers into content producers, is forcing PR’s evolution along with it – regardless of 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0.

The idea is to fuse the best of PR, technology, marketing, and the Web. No BS. No hype.

PR should understand markets, the needs of people, and how to reach them at the street level – without insulting everyone along the way.

PR 3.0, as defined by PRWeek, is a slap in the face to all of the new media pioneers who have tirelessly worked to help bring PR into the conversation – and in doing so – improve the business of PR and the skills of those who practice it.

For those who haven’t read my series of what PR 2.0 is and isn’t, here’s a quick recap:

I started discussing the concept of PR 2.0 during Web 1.0 as a way of analyzing how the Web and multimedia was redefining PR and marketing communications, while also building the toolkit to reinvent how companies communicate with influencers and directly with people.

PR 2.0 is an opportunity to not only work with traditional journalists, but also engage directly with a new set of accidental influencers, and, it was also our ability to talk with customers directly.

PR 2.0 is not because of, or limited to, Web 2.0. It is, however, influenced by it.

PR 2.0 isn’t Social Media. And Social Media isn’t Web 2.0. These are also distinct movements that can complement and inspire each other.

PR 2.0 incorporates the tools that enable the socialization of media, providing smart folks with the ability to reach folks directly.

Social Media is important because it represents the democratization of news and information.

Social Media frames “media” in a socialized context, but it doesn’t invite PR (as it exists today) to market through (or to) it. However, worthy individuals can participate in conversations as long as they participate as a person and not a marketer.

PR 2.0, in principle, is the ONLY method for conducting PR in the long tail.

UPDATE #1: Keith O’Brien of PRWeek blogs some of the initial industry response to its Agency Business Report – “Mike Manuel says yes. Brian Solis gives a definitive no.”

UPDATE #2: I responded, “Just to be clear, my post wasn’t in direct response to the Agency Business Report, it was specific to PRWeek’s claim that the industry was moving towards a new age – PR 3.0 as designated by the staff.

By aligning PR 3.0 with revenue and business growth, PRWeek is misleading and confusing the already bewildered masses of PR practitioners and company marketing executives who are still trying to figure out the new world of Social Media.

Our discussions about PR (insert number here) should first focus on helping these people “get it,” instead of trying to coin a movement that hasn’t yet amalgamated.”

UPDATE #3: Keith O’Brien’s response, “...what we (the Royal We, at least from my perspective) wanted to get across was that social media was not tremendously impacting the bottom line (yet) and that execs were agreeing with your statement – that everyone needs to get it. Perhaps when everyone gets it, we will be at 3.0. Or 2.3. (insert number here).”

UPDATE #4: Julia Hood of PRWeek responds.


18 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “PRWeek Claims Industry Enters Age of PR 3.0 – They Couldn’t be More Wrong”

  1. LF says:

    I think it was a poor decision for PRWeek to make that statement, especially since I would guess there are hundreds of PR professionals who are still operating on a “PR 1.0” level, much less 2.0 or the “new age” 3.0.

    Aside from those in the industry being in the know, many of the clients and consumers of all of our PR efforts are not even ready to accept and/or utilize Web 2.0 and social media… – not everyone has evolved into using, reading and understanding blogging, podcasts and social networking sites. While there has been a lot of buzz about it all, especially over the past few years…it’s not yet a mainstream thought for all PR professionals.

  2. LA says:

    B – I could not agree more. The only thing we can hope for is that their readership is down as a result of exactly the media shift cited in the article.

    As a communications professional, and as someone who is engaged in the conversation, not just reading about how to have one, if I spent time reading PR Week to understand more about my craft, my peers and the tools and trends really at play here….um, I think I would be out of work.


  3. Geoff_Livingston says:

    This seems to be a bandwagon move, or even one upmanship. I actually am not a big fan of PRSA as I feel it offers me little to no value as a practitioner.

    Convincing people that our business has just been turned upside once (a.k.a. 2.0) has turned into a dogfight with my competing agency brethren as well as business owners locally in DC. People have a hard time grasping how much new media has changed PR, demanding a new level of transparency and openness. They just don’t get it.

    I can’t imagine trying to push PR 3.0 given the reticence to join the current revolution… Further 3.0 does not seem relevant to me. Unless Second Life pulls off a new miracle that is 😉

  4. Michael Tangeman says:

    Sounds like we’re in the midst of the P.R. “Bubble.” It’s so reminiscent of the hype and the “next new thing” mentality of 1999-2000, when people who couldn’t organize a piss-up in a real-world brewery were leaving their shortcomings behind them in the mad rush to VC-funded nirvana. If PR could only just get it right in what we do every day, instead of looking to a technology-driven new era that will give us all 26% growth, ad infinitum!

  5. KFFBOS says:

    Bravo Brian. I’m not sold on the 2.0 moniker, but I’ve slowly been coming around. I am sold however that the PR biz is in a completely evolutionary mode with social media.

    It is funny that in the same issue that PR Week talks 3.0 they also have an article about social media as a ‘…key to an agency’s capabilities’…um, d’uh.

    PR Week is simply out of touch with the day-to-day within PR.


  6. Chris Heuer says:

    hmmmm – this is the problem with trying to version anything. I think Geoff is right about one upmanship – seems like they did not want to be seen as late to the 2.0 party… so why not just leap past it, try to spin the change that we are now finally starting to see take root as passe’ and just move beyond the current conversation where they may establish a toehold of relevancy – certainly got you and us talking about it… Strategically they perhaps may be thinking that ‘we don’t want to be a part of your conversation, we are the PR industry and you need to come talk to us on our terms’

    Regardless of their true motivations, the bottom line is that the transformation underway is real, and it doesn’t need a convenient numerical moniker to validate it. If anything Brian, I would take their stats and write a post about how this shows that PR 2.0 is here, and restructure your arguments such that the very real change underlying the convenient short hand of the meme is what matters…

    I think you should write a separate letter to the editor suggesting clarification on why they chose to move past pr 2.0 and jump to pr 3.0 – their response should make for great reading if nothing else…

  7. João Duarte says:

    Hi Brian,

    Fist time posting here. Excellent work.

    You said
    «The evolution of the Web has forced communications professionals to step out from behind the “great wall of PR” to interact with the people formerly known as the audience and the “people” aka influencers aka experts that also reach them.»

    This is exactlty the point. As PR practitioner I understand your comment. However, as PR professor I would remind that the reason for PR to be PR is “Publics” + “Relationships”. New tools do give us different possibilities to develop relationships but the centre of the issue will allways be “publics”. (More on this discussion here )

    Strangely, you didn’t mention “publics” but used other words to referr to the people with whom we try to establish and maintain relationships. In the end, they will allways be people, but people inside crowds, masses and publics assume different characteristics. Isn’t this something which we should think about more often, specially when speaking of PR 2.0 / 3.0 and so on?

    What are the great differences between “publics” or between the way PR people conceive them in PR 1.0 / 2.0 ?

    Obviously I agree with your comments on the lack of consistency of PRWeek on this.
    João Duarte

  8. Geoff_Livingston says:

    You inspired me to write up the 3.0 gaff…
    Sorry about the PRSA snafu in my original comment.


  9. Brian Solis says:

    If, I agree. It was a poor decision. I think if PR Week simply titled their report as, “PR Officially Enters Age of PR 2.0,” it would have made more sense and would have vindicated all who have worked diligently to ensure that the industry doesn’t get left behind.

    L.A., thank you. You’re right, PRWeek is more of the Daily Variety of the PR industry and has long since forgotten how to truly help their readers evolve with the rapidly shifting landscape.

    Geoff, yes…3.0 doesn’t exist. Again, this article could have swapped the 3.0 with 2.0 and it would have been an incredible issue. In one motion, PRWeek could have helped to legitimize the PR 2.0 set of principles along with garnering support throughout the blogosphere.

    Michael, cheers. It’s a shame that PRWeek chose to coin something rather than help the industry embrace social media and (back it up with numbers!) Too bad for them since I already own…I just didn’t think I would need to use it for another several years!

    KFF, bravo to you! I read your post…good stuff. How crazy that someone walked the issue of PRWeek into your office while you were commenting on the blog. They’re out of touch…and quite frankly, certain PRWeek reporters (who shall go unnamed) have expresses such frustration.

    Chris, brilliant. Working on it now…some of that theme is already in this post, but you’re right. You can single out an entire article that talks about how swapping the “3” with a “2” could justify the demand for Social Media savvy folks.

    Joao, welcome. Thank you for stopping by. Honestly, yes, at the end of the day it is “public” relations. But in the age of social media, “public” sounds dangerously close to “audience” and that implies that one message carries value for all. You nail it when you say that people create the public, but they all come from different backgrounds with a whole different set of channels to reach them. If we’re talking about engaging with people, then you have to peel back the layers to participate in their conversations.

  10. Ike says:

    Brian, it is clear that in the aftermath of the infamous “Rubel Twittersode” that people are thinking differently about the tools and the tactics of social media.

    We are no longer stuck at PR 2.0 – we’ve firmly ventured forth into the vast frontier that is PR (RC1).

    Of course – that is only for those cutting edge communicators that ever bothered to upgrade to PR 2.0; most are waiting for a stable version to emerge after Service Pack 1.

  11. Brian Solis says:

    Ike, honestly, Rubel had an opinion and it should have been left at that…for there to be a threat against the entire organization was silly. PC Magazine should have asked themselves what they could do better…but I guess that’s in a perfect world.

    But seriously, loved the comment. I think that while we’re already looking at Service Pack 1 and anticipating the next rev of PR, many people are afraid to upgrade to PR 2.0 in general (sounds like Vista!). They’re on the sidelines waiting for more success stories…which is why the PRWeek issue could have focused on pushing everyone else into the game instead of leaving everyone scratching their heads.

  12. João Duarte says:


    Thanks for your comment.

    Once an Architect friend of mine came to speak at a major PR conference and realised that “we’re all talking about the same things, but with different names”.

    He was referring to his work as Urban Planner and about the need to engage in conversation and relationships with communities in order to adequate his intervention to people’s needs and we, from PR, were referring to the need to change our conception of publics and deffenetly move away from thinking that audiences (receivers) and publics (much more than just receivers) are the same thing.

    You also say the same thing. The most sustainable and important argument to defend a move from PR 1.0 to PR 2.0 and so on is the argument that publics have changed.

    And we spend much more time discussing tools rather than discussing the real changes that people have undergone. At we recently debated much about this issue also in a post titled “New Tools don’t make New PR” (

    Let’s keep the debate rolling.


  13. Jay says:

    I am with you, Brian. PR 3.0 was hype, and unnecessary. I sympathize with those of you who are trying to bring PR along, but I have also observed what you observed: a bizarre hostility to new media and an equally puzzling identification with old media among PR people who (I guess) see their franchise disappearing if Big Media declines.

    Or maybe it’s just that they knew what their job was when Big Media was king, and now they don’t know. To listen to them defend the major news media against the upstart bloggers and amateurs with a printing press is, well, strange.

    I thought your post was very intelligent.

    Jay Rosen

  14. Ike says:

    Thanks Brian…

    The first graf of my comment was in jest – meant to be a counterpoint. Too many people look at today’s major waves, and don’t step back where the ripples can be seen for what they are.

  15. Jim Dowling says:

    Great post.

    You’ve summed up what’s wrong with our industry – we talk too much about potential, and don’t deliver.

    If PR was entering 3.0 or whatever drivel’s being discussed amongst ourselves…then why aren’t all the ad creatives, the planners, the DM guys and all that putting down their pencils and joining us?

    Because we don’t have the work (and therefore the talent) to prove it. We just blog about it instead.

  16. Keith Morrison says:

    Bit late to the party on this (as PR Week!) but good to see you adhere to no BS. May there be much, much less…

  17. Brian Solis says:

    Jay, you’re exactly right. There’s a tremendous and unusual resistance against it. All I can do is keep moving forward and try to help those who want to grow and learn.

    Ike, got it. Cheers!

    Jim, it’s not only that we talk too much, it’s that PR industry hypes too much. They completely proved why PR doesn’t get it with their claims.

    Keith, it’s never too late. This discussion will be going on for quite some time.

  18. Social Media says:

    Just for your information, Google recently updated PR last week on nearly every website

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