Year In Review: Five Important PR Innovations of 2009

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We begin our 2009 Year In Review coverage with a list of five important innovations that made the biggest impact on the PR industry over the last year.

Click continued for the complete list. Coming soon in our continuing year in review coverage: agency trends, the top five pitches of 2009 and more…

1) Facebook Makes Changes to “Fan Pages”

Facebook’s changes to their “Fan Pages” in March — which are destinations set up on the social network by everyone from celebrities to large brands — was possibly the innovation that brought brands and marketers on to the social network en-masse, giving them a formal and better way to communicate. Perhaps the biggest change was that status updates from fan pages now appeared in user’s news feeds “more often,” wrote David Berkowitz in Advertising Age. This positioned brands in the same way as ones’ “friends” on the social network for the first time.


The new options certainly caught on. COO Sheryl Sandberg [pictured] said in an Advertising Week keynote speech this past September that there are more than 1.4 million active fan pages on Facebook and “three of the top 15 are brands.” Although, as PRNewser reported in November, only 23% of pages have more than 1,000 fans.

2) Free PR Services Gain Traction

2009 saw many free or “freemium” PR industry services launch or reach critical mass. Peter Shankman’s free “match reporters to sources” email list, Help A Reporter Out, grew to more than 100,000 members. Jason Kintzler’s [pictured] free online press release builder PitchEngine picked up more than 14,000 brands using the service, including CNN, Coca-Cola and IBM.


Mega-agencies Edelman and Waggener Edstrom launched Twitter monitoring and management services, TweetLevel and Twendz, respectively. Other Twitter services such as HootSuite and Tweetdeck were increasingly adopted by PR pros.

3) Social CRM

Notably, launched “Chatter,” a social platform that integrates “profiles, status updates, groups, feeds, and of course, information from Twitter and Facebook,” wrote Altimeter Group analyst Charlene Li. The merging of social media and customer relationship management (CRM) is an area where PR will need to continue to be on top of things.

4) Google Byline Search and Real Time Search

The biggest enhancements to search this year, from a PR perspective, was the ability to view a reporter’s body of work via Google byline search and the addition of Twitter status coupled with the planned addition of Facebook status updates to search results. As PRNewser reported in June, “Byline history was available on Google News all along, though not hyper-linked, and not available in search window functionality. The former allows you to track a journalist even if they change jobs.”


In regards to the addition of Twitter and Facebook updates to Google Search, Google VP of Search Products and User Experience Marissa Mayer wrote, “We believe that our search results and user experience will greatly benefit from the inclusion of this up-to-the-minute data, and we look forward to having a product that showcases how tweets can make search better in the coming months.”

Microsoft’s Bing was the first search engine to strike deals with both Twitter and Facebook.

5) The Death of the Ad-Equivalency Report

This last one perhaps falls under the category of “anti-innovation,” but 2009 may be the year the ad-equivalency report finally dies. The Institute for Public Relations’ Measurement Commission voted in October to ‘reject AVEs (ad value equivalency), the concept and the practice.'”

“…with the rise of social media, AVEs have little meaning when the value of the most traditional media is dropping daily, and the power of individual blogs, many of which don’t accept advertising, is growing exponentially,” wrote measurement guru Katie Paine in a op-ed at the time.