The new wave of social media punidtry has shifted from “engage” to “measure.” As part of that, tons of people have weighed in on how to select a social media firm/consultant, offering various tips and tricks. Well, here’s mine.

How active and enthusiastic is the person’s spouse?

You see, a lot of us have spouses that are nurses, builders or some other non-tethered profession. I think this is our way of finding balance. My wife is a pretty solid reality check usually.

So if we can get our spouse fired up about social media, we must be pretty good, right?

UPDATE: Yes, I know that not everybody has a spouse. That’s Ok, this can apply to moms, siblings or pets as well 🙂

We deal with them every day. We spend hours crafting pitches, preparing background documents and making sure they’re happy. But how do we decide who is and isn’t an influencer?

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Social Fresh conference in Portland (for some other takeaways, you can read them here)  recently and I wanted to know how some of the attendees defined who they considered an influencer.

As you can see, the definitions covered the spectrum. In a world where everybody is a publisher, we need to be wary of who we call an influencer. As PR practitioners, we are trying to maintain gold standards while making sure we are getting our clients the best results possible.

Time management

The biggest challenge on PR pros in a world where “influencer” is a fluid term is managing our time asks. Sometimes it’s the smallest of outlets that take the most time.

So how do we decide where to spend our time? In my opinion, we can look at some simple metrics to determine how we allocate our most precious resource.

Impact: This isn’t about eyeballs. This is about action. When this person publishes an article, do people listen and act? Do they generate traffic, signups or sales? Spend some time with them.

Engaged: If they seem to genuinely care about the announcement, chances are they can become a champion for you. Spend some time with them.

Audience: There are two parts to this: Passion and interaction. If the person’s readers are commenting and a conversation generally happens around each post, this helps the “long tail” of an announcement. Spend some time with them.

So, who should you not spend some time with? Quite simply, anybody who can’t help you define your goals.

Now it’s your turn: How do you define an influencer? What effects your perception of a potential pitch recipient? What causes you to say no?

The life and times of the in-house PR counsel at most companies are a changin’. Silos are being built as a result of silos being torn down. Specialists are generalizing and generalists now have a specialty. What is happening?

Those are some of the topics I’ll be talking about at this year’s Seattle PRSA Jumpstart event. PRSA Jumpstart is an event for the next generation of PR pros that  are coursing through the pipelines of the various schools offering training on what we collectively call PR.

But what are they training to do? They’re still being taught how to write press releases, but is that important? How about we teach technical skills such as HTML/PHP, SEO techniques, video editing or visual journalism?

The future of in-house PR

Here’s my theory: In-house corporate PR will become a strategic counsel, relying upon external agencies for execution, measurement and reality checks. In the next 10 years, in-house corporate PR teams will essentially shrink to as few people as possible, depending on the size of the company.

I’ll get into the hows in a bit, but for now, let’s focus on Why? I think that as public relations as we know it continues to blur the lines between marketing, sales, customer support and PR, the focus will be more on strategic communications and less on day-to-day PR activities.

As we continue to realize that social media (or pancake media) is simply media — a way of sharing information — we’ll get less hung up on the tools were using and again focus on the messages we’re sharing.

Peter Shankman is fond of saying that good writing will save society and I think this is essential for the future of PR especially.

But how will we shift?

The shift from a traditional client/agency/consultant model to a more fluid and collaborative effort is already happening. Ubiquitous methods of broadcasting to a public that’s more willing to consume information are emerging and systems for effectively using and measuring them are evolving.

The focus needs to be on quality. It’s no longer enough to throw up some blog posts and *poof * you’re a social media guru coach rawkstar. The challenge with PR as it stands today is that people are treating the Internet like a public access TV station. Everybody. This blog included.

But the problem with public access TV is that a lot of it sucks.

The good is rising to the top. The herd is being thinned. But how? By providing quality content. Social media tools have leveled the playing field of who has access to the public. But they don’t make you a good strategist or a good analyst or a good communicator. Those are traits that need to be honed and refined with experience and execution.

So, what will corporate PR look like in the future? I think it will look a lot different. Corporations need to think like a network. Find good shows that people want to watch and your audience will come.

Tell me your thoughts about what the future of public relations looks like in the comments. I would love to hear them.