As the line between advertorial, editorial and native becomes ever more blurred on the information superhighway, agencies are being called on to offer a full spectrum of services to meet client demands. Where does the proliferation of content platforms and the constant demand for fresh content leave PR professionals? Lucinda Jordaan asked a few industry experts whether they’ve had to change gears to remain relevant in the digital age, or whether pitching for publicity is business as usual.
Vanessa Perumal – MD of JT Communication Solutions – reckons transformation is more vital than ever, as media’s evolution means there’s little room for traditional thinking in PR – unless it’s aligned with a digital-first approach.
If your clients’ expectations of results-driven PR is based on yesteryear, you will not survive.
There is no doubt that with technology, media evolves literally by the day and what was relevant yesterday is no longer. Unless your agency can evolve and you are leading the social media revolution or on the journey, relying on traditional media platforms is already archaic. This means if your clients’ expectations of results-driven PR is based on yesteryear, you will not survive.
Living in a digital era is also about educating your clients and being circumspect about what you can deliver. Even having media networks in your corner is no longer a guarantee you’ll get stories placed. PR agencies have to start thinking out of the box and start recognising the power of social media influencers as part of the content solution to place stories.
There will always be place for people who #Spin and #Fix – it’s how you find your niche, create believers for your product and how you package your offering that becomes more relevant right now.
Sadly transformation of the PR sector still has not happened and black PR agencies are still marginalised unless they can prove they belong to PR associations. This means traditional big businesses still place value on regulations that precludes a new emerging, transformed PR agency. However, there is now an opportunity for PR agencies who have more to offer to radically change perceptions through conscious organisation of the sector.
How we tell our stories and how we influence the target audience and target message to align with the media platform’s objectives is becoming more necessary. Also, media databases have to include a wider network – not just journalists; include bloggers, freelancers and thought leaders. If you’re not creating visual content and if you have not evolved as an agency to include diversifying how you package content, your staying power in the sector is slim.
Knowledge remains power. Networks that are trusted cannot be broken and forming media relationships is about having a strong ecosystem. In the olden days PR was about cut and paste. Today just knowing how to use your Iphone and having access to data 24/7 can determine how well you can perform. To succeed, you have to align traditional PR with new media platforms and work from a position of strength.
Bridget von Holdt – business manager at Burson-Marsteller, believes the role of the PR practitioner as strategic communicator is only growing stronger – and that there’ll always be a role for skilled innovators.
“Public relations is first and foremost a strategic discipline; implementation follows that.”
Public Relations is all about content management: the PR professional controls the messaging and the input. So while the lines may be blurred on platforms, the role of the practitioner grows from strength to strength. It is still about the strength of the message, the relevance to the audience as well as to the platform. The key is to ensure that you are creative, innovative and fresh.
The PR environment has no barriers to entry – so there will always be those that take a chance and can damage the reputation of the PR profession and of the company they are working for. More ad agencies are venturing into the PR environment, and they tend to throw money at PR initiatives and this sometimes clouds the value.
Public relations is first and foremost a strategic discipline; implementation follows that. And PR and communication operates at all levels. The content, the messaging and the monitoring are all important, so there will always be a role for the PR person. This is one of the key reasons that corporates of any stature choose to work with a PR consultancy.
PR strategy is about the integrated approach – and relationships are still key.
Chirene Campbell, MD at Owlhurst Communications, admits that while requirements have changed, boundaries have shifted and roles are redefined, the game is still on…
“Information is still one of the hottest currencies, no matter its form.”
More and more online news sites and their printed counterparts will only consider contributions, whether they’re newsworthy or not, if you’re willing to take out a press office or advertising space – which is a more difficult sell to clients.
Information is still one of the hottest currencies, no matter its form. The role of the PR practitioner has just vastly altered; it’s no longer a case of just pushing information out – we need to ourselves become publishers, social media aggregators, content creators, writers, influencers, vloggers, bloggers, videographers, broadcasters, etc.
Content is still king, no matter the platform. The basics of knowing who your client’s target market is and pairing it with appropriate media channels, and building relationships with key journalists and editors cannot be overstated. In addition to that we as communicators need to tap into on-the-ground influencers, bloggers and brand ambassadors because the reality is that people talk (and listen) to people, not brands. Engaging consumers, letting them be heard, treating them as an individual rather than a target market will go a long way in building brand affinity.
We have a million ways to communicate and both clients and PR practitioners take full advantage – Twitter, Facebook messaging, WhatsApp, SMSs – the phone never stops buzzing. Office hour boundaries are gone: we’re open 24/7, and it’s expected.
We’re also expected to deliver a lot more value with less remuneration, but that’s just the nature of the economy; every industry is being squeezed to perform and it’s the new norm. The trick is to learn how to still have fun while doing it.
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