The future of PR is bright

An Opinion piece from Walter Patanella – CEO News Intelligence, Kantar Media – Introduced during the AMEC Summit “Winning the Game”


People have been sounding the death knell for PR for far too long.  If PR were dead, it would be gone.  The fact is, PR is still here, day-to-day tasks may have changed but it is no less important to most businesses.  PR is not dead.  The future of PR is bright, and here is why……

Constant Change

Have you ever added an effervescent tablet to water?  Instantly the surface is shaken, thousands of bubbles rise to the top and the substances mix together.  Everything is changed.  The arrival of digital media brought effervescence to the communications industry – initially PR and marketing pros were like the bubbles, scrambling around, bumping against each other, each looking for ownership.

Now, this effervescence has slowed down and many of the PR and marketing bubbles have mixed together to share skills.  Maybe the PR team are drafting in their marketing colleagues to help turn their latest press release into a visually delightful infographic, or the marketing team are drawing on their PR colleagues’ experience to craft the perfect message for their upcoming Adwords campaign.  PRs have more variety in their work now than ever before – whether that variety is caused by taking the opportunity to collaborate with others or by upskilling, working in new areas and become leaders in creating a new definition of PR.

A (Budget) Winning Performance

We have more data at our fingertips than ever before.  What’s more, we’ve been measuring media data for long enough now to see significant patterns emerge.  Imagine, if we were to gather all our life experience and offer it to an intern, just starting out in the business.  It’s a valuable gift, and in many ways, existing data is just that.

Data tells you about much more than your own performance, it tells you about your audience.  Kara Segreto, Chief Marketing Officer of Prudential Retirement said “Data makes storytelling stronger – when you match behavioural, psychographic and demographic data, you get empathy. Only then can you tell stories that touch people”.  If you can harness the power of data, you can create hyper-targeted, tailored campaigns that really speak to your audience.  Not only do data-led campaigns have built-in performance benchmarks but they are rooted in clear metrics, as opposed to vague promises of “awareness” or “buzz”.  Metrics which can easily be tied back to business results: shifting from “Smart” data to “Impact” data, or using other words, from insights to action. Never before have PR professionals had such an opportunity to prove their success….or argue their case for increased investment based on solid, unquestionable links to business results.

Rethinking Relationships

Mastering user intent is becoming key for brands who want to be seen and search engines are rewarding those who think about user needs.  Audiences no longer think in terms of keywords, when they search they have a question that needs to be answered and here, PRs can use their relationship skills to become masters of SEO.  Firstly, PRs are experts at generating quality content and understanding audience requirements.  By creating online content that answers audience questions, they can have a more effective impact on SEO than through keywords alone.  Also, PRs can use their press relationships to their advantage by securing stories on reputable news sites.  These sites have greater domain authority and will help, not only generate quality inbound links but also boost a brand’s profile in the process.

Bringing a human element to communications isn’t just good for SEO.  Audiences love purposeful brands – 91% of consumers would switch to a brand that supported a good cause over one that didn’t. The opportunity here for PRs is to use their relationship building skills to speak to their client’s audience. To make brands, not just purposeful, but authentic.  PRs need to think fast to come up with fresh, relevant ways to engage with their audiences.  Newsjacking is a tried and tested way of driving real-time engagement but for the real wins, PRs will have to go a step further by combining the immediacy of newsjacking with the authenticity of a purposeful brand to create a fully immersive, emotive, personal brand experience.

Automate to Create

PR people are creative by nature – but creativity alone isn’t enough and finding the time to form a cutting-edge campaign can be a challenge even for those who work at the fastest of paces.  As technology advances, PRs can leverage the tools available to them to automate some of the more repetitive aspects of their job.

Don’t panic!  I am not suggesting that PR can be automated. I am simply saying that, for those mundane tasks, ask yourself if there’s an app for that.

Find yourself a media contact tool that will allow you to search for topics of interest and assemble media contact lists – this will save you hours of manually searching for the right contacts.  Use an email tracking service to monitor your replies and enrich the data with how many opens and clicks your email has had.  Not only will this give you added insight but save you having to deal with complex excel sheets.  Look to automate your reporting too, use a tool that will allow you to automatically generate infographics from existing data.  Not only will this save you time compiling reports, it will delight your clients or managers as they’ll get to see their results in a more appealing, easily understandable way.

Stop having to keep one eye on your social media accounts by setting up monitoring with tailored alerts so you can go on with your day, knowing that if an issue occurs, you’ll be alerted to it.  Go a step further even, by incorporating a service that will allow you to schedule your social media posts in advance – liberating you from time-specific updates.  Invest your new-found time into more creative tasks and with dedicated space to think, find new ways to surprise your clients with unconventional PR plans.

Be the next big thing before it happens, don’t just capitalise on existing news.

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