As an industry, public relations is constantly evolving. I’ve worked in this field for two decades and now more than ever, I’m adapting to new technologies, navigating the decline of the print newspaper and embracing the proliferation of social media.
Over the past three years, the pace of these changes has quickened. I’ve witnessed some significant shifts as PR firms reinvent themselves to better serve our clients’ changing needs. In many ways, PR is no longer about the relationship between a company and the media. It’s about the relationship companies have with everyone: bloggers, influencers, employees, journalists and anyone using Twitter or Facebook. It’s about crafting content, strategies and campaigns that engage all of these stakeholders.
Here are the three of the most significant changes I’ve seen in the PR industry in the last three years:
1. The PR and advertising worlds are colliding: PR firms are setting up advertising arms. Advertising firms are setting up PR arms. Advertisers recognize the importance of running campaigns that allow companies to interact with and respond to the needs of the stakeholders. They require PR expertise to do this successfully. Public relations practitioners recognize they need the spark and creativity that goes into the creation of paid media, a role typically held by advertisers.
PR agencies also recognize the need to use SEO techniques to ensure their carefully crafted campaigns reach the right stakeholders on the web. Because client budgets haven’t changed, many companies are joining forces rather than competing for the same projects. PR agencies aren’t just PR agencies anymore; they’re integrated agencies.
2. PR agencies have become publishers: Your consumers and stakeholders no longer get their information exclusively from traditional media sources. They read news on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Increasingly, those stakeholders also consume information on company websites. In this new environment, every company has the opportunity to be a media company or a brand journalist. To do this successfully, your content strategy and strategic content needs to be exceptional.
PR agencies have begun creating newsroom-style content hubs, where writers, editors and videographers focus on finding and telling compelling stories via their own channels in a 24/7 news cycle environment. The branded content they produce is sometimes featured alongside editorial content in major publications as “native” advertising. Companies are using these newsroom-style content hubs to produce relevant content in the moment, a prime example of which was Oreo’s stunningly popular tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout.
3. PR got creative: Public relations agencies have begun to use creative directors in their campaigns. This move is a response to clients who want creative strategy mixed in with more traditional PR services like expert positioning and media relations. Clients eager to launch a digital campaign are also keen to work with just one company rather than different shops for marketing and digital, as well as public relations.
As the industry continues to evolve, PR agencies must find new talent to meet the evolving demands of this industry. We must seek out brand journalists, who can bring a new level of creativity to the storytelling process. Our social media teams must examine analytics and user trends. We must build responsive websites that integrate seamlessly into broader PR and marketing campaigns and leverage creative minds throughout their campaigns. And most of all, we must embrace change at every step of the way.
What changes have you seen in the PR industry over the last three years? How have you adapted to those changes?
A leader in the Canadian public relations industry, Andrea Lekushoff has more than two decades of experience as a communications strategist and trusted advisor for some of the world’s most respected brands. Email Andrea