With the PR industry awash in digital-mania, William Murray, president and COO of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), wants everyone to take a step back and assess which tech tools will actually help clients.
"Sometimes people get infatuated with technology for the sake of technology," he says. "Just blogging for the sake of blogging isn't the best way to advance your overall objectives. [You must ask if it] can be used to engage your customers?"
Murray believes, however, that the PR industry is poised to make the most effective use of those tools.
"Web 2.0 is really about putting the tools of storytelling into the hands of individuals," he adds, "so there's a great opportunity for PR pros to learn about those tools not just technologically, but in a strategic way."
Murray came to the PRSA's headquarters in New York City after a long career in Hollywood. He was EVP and co-COO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a 220-employee trade association for the multibillion-dollar movie business. He attracted the attention of the PRSA board - after a year as the president of his media-consulting firm, William Murray & Associates - because of his business knowledge of associations, explains Jeff Julin, chairman and CEO of the board.
"He's an association professional, not a PR professional," Julin says. "[He] helps us have a different perspective on how we reach out to our members."
For example, Murray has made the PRSA's Web site a priority and he has implemented a redesign that is expected to be finished this year. Besides a more modern look, the new site will include more expert blogs by PR pros offering tips and techniques, as well as video.
"We're rebuilding our Web site [with] more Web 2.0 features," he explains. "This better allows us to connect to our membership."
One of its fastest-growing membership segments, the New Professionals group, networks at traditional meetings, as well as online in a new eGroup, he adds.
Murray also helped to revamp the PRSA's membership survey, out this July.
"This is going to help [us] better understand what our members need to be successful... [as well as] shape our marketing," he says.
Although a nonprofit, PRSA aims to contribute 1% of its overall expenses to a reserve fund each year, a goal it "considerably exceeded" last year. This aided the Web site push, Murray notes.
Julin says Murray has impressed the board with his responsiveness to its concerns, as well as to those of its members.
"Bill's leadership as president has brought a new spirit of collaboration," he explains.
Murray, though, believes he's the lucky one who traded monotonous sunny California days to return to his East Coast roots. The New Jersey native is particularly pleased to have the opportunity to work with an association open to change.
"The PRSA is a smaller organization," he says, "[so] you get a chance to put a vision on it."
The MPAA, on the other hand, "was very fixed in its mission," adds Murray. The industry as a whole has "had a very difficult time" adjusting to the new tech climate.
"The PR community is exactly the opposite," he suggests. "You can't hold technology back. Change is going to be constant."
PRSA, president and COO
William Murray & Associates, president
MPAA, various posts. Most recently, he was EVP and co-COO (2000-2005)