US-based PR practitioner Gaye Carleton mentioned in a blog that “virtual on its own is a mere puff of smoke” and “while at the moment we’re fascinated with all things virtual and with virtual being touted as ‘the future is now,’ I say, ‘Just say no.’”


She goes on to say that the mix of physical – a press clipping, a press kit, a creative promo item – and virtual is fine, but she worries that PR could become an ‘at-risk’ industry.


My perspective on the subject is that the PR industry is at risk only if it does not embrace online communities.


Although there is a myriad of bloggers online with nothing but opinions to express, the key to online PR is to find bloggers, forums, social networking sites and any other platforms relevant to your specific client industries. People read magazines and listen to TV programs that they are interested in. The same applies to blogs, e-zines, e-newsletters and so on. So it is possible to listen (see my previous posting) to only the relevant online conversations and start creating a real dialogue with users.


Online has made the sharing of information, tips and feedback so much more open and PR practitioners just need to grasp these opportunities to get out there with authentic facts and stories about their clients.


So I’m 100 percent behind Timo’s comment to the ‘PR: Physical vs. Virtual’ blog that “Through social media we got the great chance to really put the public back into public relations.”


Obviously, looking at ‘traditional’ PR, there’s nothing like meeting a journalist face-to-face and creating that interpersonal connection with them. It’s definitely that best way to make sure that next time we send them an email, start twittering with them or become their connections on LinkedIn, we will actually mean something to them J.


To give an Australian perspective to this ‘PR: physical vs. virtual’ debate, with the Australian Government announcing this week the creation of a new super fast National Broadband Network, it goes to show that the importance of online and therefore online PR is only going to increase with time.


So my prediction is that PR agencies that are denying the online phenomenon or simply not preparing themselves by up-skilling their staff and adjusting their services to include an online component are simply not going to survive in the long run.


Kim Larochelle