On a world tour ...

During the recent political campaigns, a hot-button issue has become the outsourcing of jobs to India, Philippines and other countries that have highly educated workers, at a third of the cost.

Having grown up in the Rust Belt, I find this whole recent outrage about losing jobs to overseas workers quite amusing and also obnoxious. While for years, blue collar jobs got up and went to Mexico, Korea, and Chinese prisons, the average American was pretty closed mouth, and politicians only made a stink in the Rust Belt and gave lip service.

When outsourcing hit the white collar jobs (the non-union voters), it seemed to become the issue du jour. And, as a valued subscriber to O'Dwyer's newsletter, I have been privy to the recent articles, and then arguments on what outsourcing is doing to the country, and how even public relations can one day succumb to the outsourcing phenomenon.

In a recent article, O'Dwyer's editor Kevin McCauley pontificated on the PR outsourcing brouhaha: Are PR jobs safe from the outsourcing trend? That's the second challenge facing the profession. The pressure on cost-cutting in the PR business is especially acute now that big ad conglomerates have gobbled up a huge chunk of the PR market. PR also is being marginalized as more and more junior people do the daily nuts and bolts of PR. This office, for instance, gets tons of follow-up calls each week from PR people asking whether or not we have received their press releases or e-mails. Couldn't that duty be handled by a calling center in New Delhi?

The PR trade today has become very depersonalized. Communication with the press has devolved during the past two decades from one-on-one meetings with reporters to phone chats to e-mail pitches. The loss of personal relationships with members of the media makes it easy for one to predict a future in which PR may face its own era of outsourcing. There are millions of highly educated English speaking Indians who firmly believe they could fill your shoes.

And, you know what, there might be some truth to that. Recently, the New York Times reported that Reuters had outsourced some journalists jobs to Bangalore, India.

In all fairness to Reuters, they are an international news corporation, and they are just adding six reporters to the India bureau to cover small and medium-sized US businesses.

But, if those jobs can be sent to Bangalore, what is to stop public relation jobs being sent overseas? While one recent pitch came about because the company wanted a firm in the same time zone as its HQ to make it easier to hold strategy meetings, and to have weekly updates, another company I have been working with is fine that we have a 9 hour difference. The thought there was that because POP! Public Relations is US-based, we would have a better connection and relationships with the US media.

PR will have to sit-up and recognize that some parts of the industry are going to be outsourced to India, Philippines, etc. But, not nearly what Kevin has made it seem. In past posts, I have written that the era of the phone is back for public relations, and that for good practitioners, it has never really gone away. Yes, the large agencies may foolishly outsource media follow-up to India, but are the clients going to be happy that their media relations are being done halfway around the world, by people that have no media relationships? Or, is this just going to be another victory for the small and medium-sized firms - that they can offer US-based workers that have built media relationships?

Some of PR is going to leave the US, it's just a given. What's to stop a company like Bacon's or Burrelle's from outsourcing the clipping services to overseas, saving money on their bottom line and increasing their profit margin (or maybe even passing those savings to its customers)? What's to stop MediaMap or Bacon's from outsourcing the collection of media data to another country - supposedly, MediaMap already uses Indian call centers to get their data (and, kudos to them, since their information usually rocks).

As Fortune's David Kirkpatrick noted in his Fast Forward column, though, some outsourcing is good and we are a little hyper about it. The flip side is the privacy issues that no one seems to bring up with outsourcing ... .

Renamed a Tribe Called Quest's Award Tour to a World Tour ... hey, all these years I thought Q-Tip was saying World. Seemed fitting, as PR people are slightly worried that they might have to embark to India or the Philippines to get that next job ... .