For a number of years, I ran the UK PR account for MySQL, the ubiquitous open source database (and recently acquired by Sun for $1bn).
In that time, I got to know some very bright people there (not least the inestimable Marten Mickos, MySQL’s CEO), as well as getting first hand insight into an innovative new business model. Back in October 2006, MySQL’s VP of Community Relations Kaj Arno announced the then introduction of MySQL’s Community and Enterprise Editions with a quite telling phrase:
“We aim to better serve both categories of MySQL users — those who are willing to spend time to save money, and those who are willing to spend money to save time.”
The parallels with the world of PR are quite similar. The traditional tools that have been employed by many client companies to support their PR efforts are now in many cases free (or at worst, a minimal cost). What is the role of a PR consultancy in a world where many of its traditional services and “black box” solutions are now freely available?
In my view, the answer lies in MySQL’s open source model, transferred to the PR world. Those who are prepared to spend time learning how to use these free (or near free) tools – and share their experience – will benefit from a greatly reduced financial cost. Rather than hoard knowledge, there will evolve an open community of PR practitioners – both agency and client side – prepared to share their experience.
However, there is clearly going to be a demand from client businesses to create solutions more quickly – and they will be prepared to pay for this expertise. PR consultancies will thus move to a paid-for support and
Far fetched? Gentle reader, I welcome your feedback.