The guiding principle of public relations revolves around the use of news and content to put forth a message about anything — a product, a business, an organization, an endeavor — using just about any effective medium of reach. Through the years, public relations (PR) has taken a lot of faces depending on what medium of communication was most effective at a given point.
PR is not advertising. PR is all about storytelling. PR is an image-shaper. But with technological advancements reshaping almost every aspect of communications and interaction, leaving nothing untouched, you might ask, “Is it still, in essence, a storytelling, nonadvertising, image-shaping tool that we have known it to be?”
It goes without saying, public relations is still an ongoing influence that has been able to withstand the test of time. From my perspective, the law of supply and demand has given PR a beating heart, as companies are aiming for more ambitious depths in reaching out to their customers with a more specific focus of building and gaining an audience.
There is always a new beat, a new editor, a new editorial calendar, a new PR outlet, etc., which makes PR a very exciting and opportunistic landscape for brand building. In order to stay up to date, it is crucial to constantly read and research stories and articles within your target market in order to note any new editors, writers, columns, etc., and then craft a thoughtful pitch to fit. Any time you come across a new writer or editor, send an introduction email, even if you don’t have a pitch ready that is a fit right away.
What’s going on in PR right now?
The job of writing a press release just won’t cut it anymore, however. As it turns out, writing is one thing, making it relevant and attention-worthy is another thing. Content demand now begins to put more focus on return on investment (ROI), and so we see two major disciplines starting to align: public relations and marketing. In simple terms, it’s no longer about just content creation but rather about “content marketing” — and today, it means an entire world of difference.
Then comes the major game-changer, in my opinion, that is the internet of things (IoT). Even though the internet has been around for quite some time now, the number of users is still growing, with more technologies conceived, making it more convenient for mankind to access anything online. For public relations, this means one thing: the internet is the biggest medium of communications and will stay there until the next tech revolution comes along.
So what does the future of public relations look like?
With technology coming into perspective, making change more volatile, this question is a little bit too ambitious to answer. But with current trends, I believe it is safe to predict that PR will remain steadfast in the many years to come. Inevitably, there will be a strong focus on online content and less on print.
As for the future of public relations, in my opinion, we are looking at a growing number of people turning towards online media as a source of relatable stories and organic, real-time responses. There is, and will be, a considerable shift from journalist/writer-based public relations to a customer-focused approach.
Public relations has definitely been moving to a more customer-focused structure recently, with the consumers playing a much larger role in how agencies go about pitching their clients to the media. I think it is an important factor to consider, and strategies should be altered slightly nowadays to hit your client’s target customers with content that will ultimately create a quick and beneficial turnaround for the client, whether that be through product or service purchases, collaboration opportunities, impressions, etc. It’s important now to focus not only on what the writer/journalist wants to write but what the consumer is hoping to read.
Public relations is about storytelling, and as people and activities evolve, so will the stories. Today, people spend more time browsing online than reading, and when they do read online, only 28% of the words are likely to be read. To optimize attention, the more condensed the content, the better.
For public relations, the direction is now pointing towards visual content — infographics, GIF content and short, shareable videos. From my perspective, the future demands short, condensed, visually appealing and shareworthy content from the people in PR. As an agency, careful planning and brainstorming of visual content is key. We have to be on guard of what is current and potentially viral to appeal to audiences.
Given those facts, we add in the statistic that that biggest population of internet users is made up of people ages 18-49, a majority of which are millennials. We are talking about a globally growing population of people who are tired, or even unoriented, with the old public relations tactics. Do they read long articles? Do they skip advertisements? What types of influences sway their purchase decisions?
To answer these questions, the future of PR will entail more dependence on analytics. Any organization that does not heed the validation of the power of analytics will clearly be at a disadvantage. However, the good news is that we can now pinpoint a number of reliable analytics tools for marketers. Compared to printed material, it is easier to measure ROI for anything published online with more sophisticated tracking tools coming into view.
The business of public relations is here to stay and is not showing any signs of stopping, as far as I can tell. It is storytelling and image-building that will remain a constant. In the coming years within the PR vocabulary, you will likely hear the terms “data techniques,” “data analytics” and “geo-location” added — all are coined as tools to target people with relevant, customer-specific content. Companies need to be armed with data as a basis of dependable and influential stories in order to rise above the competition.