The Donald Trump brand as a presidential candidate was created, nurtured and grown primarily by Trump himself. Sure he has an inner circle such as Rudy Giuliani advising him. But essentially he could bypass conventional forms of public relations through his own brilliant use of social media, such as Twitter, and of a fresh form of political rhetoric.
Likewise, the Maria Sharapova brand put itself out there without the usual machinations of traditional public relations crisis communications. Her approach on the use of a banned substance was direct, no stone-walling. There was no official spokesperson other than herself.
We all know that the public relations industry is changing in significant ways. For instance, it has to bundle in more marketing communications. That includes leveraging social networks and social media.
Incidentally, playing in the establishment media sandbox is not enough. Sure, clients prefer those placements. But an article in Forbes about the negative implications of allowing lead paint to be held liable as a public nuisance doesn't add up to viral messaging about the issue on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Linked Pulse, and high-profile blogs.
Smart public relations agencies have already incorporated that embrace of marketing communications. What hasn't been done on a comprehensive basis is a re-thinking of the role of public relations and how its services are structured, delivered, and priced.
For example, suppose public relations agencies partnered with clients to prevent crisis. That is, be proactive. That could be their major mission versus parachuting in once there was a crisis.
The current scandals at St. Paul's School, UC Berkeley School of Law, and Stanford Graduate School of Business might not have developed. The environments could have been continually scanned for signs of trouble the way traders are on the lookout for indications of disequilibrium and so on.
A public relations agency allied with St. Paul's might have noticed the phrase "Senior Salute" and urged the administration to dig around. A trained player in public relations could have picked that up as a possible flashpoint.
In addition, just as in the legal industry, standard services can be reconfigured to be a la carte. Thanks to social networks and social media, clients can more and more on their own. They would only need the high-priced services of a top public relations agencies for special kinds of lobbying or relationships with establishment media.
As the public relations industry continues to mutate there will be room for very narrowly focused niche boutiques. They would do X and only X. Many would be small or solo firms. Creating those would provide soft landings for the increasing number of communications professionals losing their jobs in media or put out to pasture because of their age. Industry publications such as PR Week and Odwyerpr.com would take them seriously.