The practice of PR, like most aspects of modern society, has been deeply impacted and irrevocably transformed by the digital revolution. At the heart of this change is social media, which has become both an ally and enemy of PR professionals. Here are five ways that the PR industry has been transformed by the digital revolution.
Before the advent of the digital era, consumers interacted with brands during business hours and newspaper deadlines dictated the same for PR professionals. Thanks to the digital revolution and an increasingly globalised media, we are living in a never-ending news cycle, allowing brands to deliver good news at any time, knowing that followers will be listening and ready to respond. Social media also provides the opportunity to give updates as part of a crisis management plan when things go wrong. However, this constant news cycle can prove to be a curse when bad news travels quickly through social media platforms, which can add fuel to the fire when dealing with a stressful crisis.
Conversation, not communication
A key change in the way PR professionals deliver campaigns lies in the transformation of the relationship between client and consumer. Rather than conveying messages to an audience, as had been common practice before the digital revolution, PR professionals must now communicate and interact with the consumer. The most successful brands and companies are in a constant conversation with their customers; the rise of social media has put more pressure on PR professionals to build positive relationships with followers, given that they can tarnish the brand’s name with a tweet that goes viral in a matter of minutes.
Traditional media on the decline
No longer is pitching to journalists a matter of simply picking up the phone. In fact, journalists are no longer relying on traditional press releases to get their news. Instead, they’re often taking matters into their own hands and following thought leaders on social channels or company websites to get material for their articles. While it can be tough for PR professionals to use multiple platforms to keep in touch with influencers and content creators, it’s critical to find new and innovative ways of contacting and pitching to journalists, from online portfolios to Instagram stories.
Everyone is a journalist
Being a journalist has never been more challenging. The wave of social media has significantly impacted the world of communications and challenged the current models of engagement with journalists and influencers. Social media has allowed everyone to become a journalist. The challenge to get stories into the desired spheres of influence has therefore become more difficult. And when things go wrong, it is next to impossible to get the client’s story out before someone on social media gets there first, often twisting or misrepresenting the story. PR professionals must always be one step ahead of the consumer.
A few years ago, no one had heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Now, it is a vital function within the practice of PR. Because of the algorithms of search engines that affect every online decision we make, optimising PR content is one of the essential tools that helps PR professionals reach audiences with their messages more effectively. Constantly evolving standards and guidelines set by Google mean that mastering the art of SEO is an ongoing battle. SEO is still relatively new and represents yet another challenge for PR professionals. What many people don’t realise, however, is that SEO works in tandem with PR, not against it.
Of course, the key functions of PR remain the same. We still pitch to journalists, secure media coverage and deal with communications crises on a daily basis. But the world has been forever changed by the rise and dominance of digital and social media. Like everything else, PR has been forced to evolve, and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
The Whitehouse team are experts in public relations strategy, from conveying a client’s position and views, gaining public support, building and promoting a brand or product and mitigating crises. Done properly, public relations and media relations are powerful tools that play a significant part in helping our clients to achieve their objectives. More information about our public relations services offered can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at firstname.lastname@example.org.