Image: T-38 Blaster by Tinkerbots.
I was discussing with some colleagues the relative merits of the social media and search dashboard products of a variety of suppliers yesterday (IBM, Adobe, WebTrends and ComScore since you ask) and I was reminded how geeky PR has become.
When I started in journalism I was given an Imperial typewriter so old and stiff it was agony to use and we typed onto newsprint which was delivered to the subs and the setters by a tube and air system. The sub used red pen, the type was hot set and the building shook a little at lunch time as the presses started to rumble.
The only things digital in the whole enterprise were my sore and bleeding fingers.
When I moved into PR it was not much better. ‘Seniors’ still wrote memos, letters and proposals on pads and handed them to secretaries to type up and mail to the client. Flashier PR firms had telex lines until the fax ‘revolutionised’ communications. We progressed to an Olympia electric typewriter which had a tiny little screen you composed on and then hit ‘go’ to set the ‘golf ball’ typing system running. Press releases were collated and mailed from the post-room using our dog eared and much revered press list by everyone late at night and little businesses thrived providing quick turnaround black and white press photos (you had to glue the caption on the back). Cuttings were… well ‘cut’ and then photocopied or even duplicated and mailed to clients in huge binders.
I remember vividly the Wang system arriving with emails (internal only) and centralised printing and then of course the true revolution of the internet. The fact is, until very recently you could have a long and distinguished career in PR and not care about technology. Now you couldn’t operate in the average PR office if that were the case, but more importantly you must understand enough of the technologies that underpin search and community if you are want to advise clients and colleagues well. That’s hard for non-digital natives but essential none-the-less. Cherish and feed your inner geek.