A few days ago, I heard presentations by Brian Solis, Deidre Breackenridge, and Lee Oddenat a virtual conference that Vocus put together called Retweet: Engagement Means Business. I’ve always been energized by how much there is too learn, how much to know in the world but after listening to these presentations, it struck me as overwhelming. As a PR and communications consultant in 2010, the possibilities for communications, especially in social media as the presenters reminded us all, are enormous. Solis and Breckenridge brought home idea that PR people should be at the forefront of customer and stakeholder engagement. We are, after all, conversation maestros, orchestrating connection and meaningful dialogue between our clients, companies and organizations and the people they need and want to engage–customers, users, and donors.
Contrary to what many people believe, PR has never really been about getting news coverage but rather about getting people to understand who we are. The traditional media was a conduit to our publics. Now the media middle man is less important. With social media, we can form our own networks to disseminate information. We can all have a platform.
This great opportunity presents difficult challenges. One in particular is how to keep up with the rapid pace of change in communications while at the same time keeping up with the developments within our clients’ industries. With so much information, it’s hard to be a generalist anymore. But if we become so specialized, we miss out on being able to connect the dots and see trends, patterns and connections in things that on the surface seem unrelated and unconnected. It’s those odd connections that lead to innovation. And that is why we should not be so focused that we miss out.
My wise colleague Denise Graveline said maybe we have to be generalists in a few areas, “selective generalists.” When I think about it, it is how I’ve worked most of my career. It just seems harder to stay ahead of the information wave today. Maybe I just haven’t found the right surfboard to ride it. What do you think? Is it necessary to specialize in one area or is there still room for generalists?