Recently, I attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) event that examined the shifts that have taken place in the public relations industry and how PR professionals are adjusting.
The panel featured PR pros:
- Soren Dayton, Senior Vice President, Digital Advocacy, H+K Strategies;
- Sara Wiskerchen, Managing Director, Media Communications, National Association of Relators; and
- Beth Perell, Vice President of Communications and Information Management, Goodwill Industries.
Each panelist offered a different perspective on the ever-changing landscape of the public relations industry but agreed that we must embrace the transformation to succeed.
For at least the last five years, we’ve all known that the emergence of new technologies and the popularity of social media would change our industry dramatically.
For instance, social media has allowed PR professionals to interact with journalists and audiences in ways that were never available before.
"It's easier than ever to connect with journalists via social media -- following their blogs, re-tweeting and tagging them,” said Sara Wiskerchen. “And journalists today are responsible for promoting their stories over social media as well as writing them -- so helping them publicize their stories builds relationships in a natural, organic fashion."
In some ways, being able to pitch a story through Twitter makes the job simpler, but it does not take away from the traditional technique of picking up the phone and building relationships.
Here are five tips from the experts to remaining relevant in today’s PR industry:
1.) Keep it short and skimmable
Now more than ever, consumers are interested in receiving information quickly and conveniently. If you want to get a point across, be sure to keep it concise and catchy, and always include the most important assertions and facts near the top.
2.) Be visual
Since most customers access content via the internet and mobile devices, videos, infographics and photos help get a point across quickly while increasing consumer engagement.
- Content with relevant images receive 94% more views than content without. (source)
- 51.9% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI. (source)
3.) Writing still matters, but distribution has changed
Digital modes of communication have not replaced the need for PR pros to be impeccable writers. However, the new emphasis is on where that written content appears.
“Success is increasingly being defined as results across platforms,” said Wiskerchen. “And lots of platforms are hungry for fresh contributed content. Nerd Wallet, Business Insider, Medium – all of these need eyeballs that our content (and audience) can help provide.”
4.) Paid media is on the rise
The debate over paid vs. earned media continues. There is a sense of gratification from placing an article or op-ed in a media outlet without paying for it. But it is becoming increasingly popular to pay outlets to run your content on a regular basis, which guarantees an audience will consistently see your brand.
According to eMarketer, paid social media spending in the U.S. and Canada was projected to rise by 31 percent last year and surpass $10 billion for the first time.
On the rise in paid media, “It’s happening. It’s real. It’s the future. And it’s only going to get worse,” said Perell. Further, most customers cannot distinguish between paid/branded media (such as pieces posted to Fortune’s (paid) “Voices” or Crain’s Chicago’s “On the Move” features) or earned media (such as pieces pitched to and placed in outlets like Forbes or The New York Times).
5.) Refresh your digital skills
Employees that understand how to build a website, record and edit video, as well as engage an audience on social media are becoming more sought out than ever before. Though easier said than done, it’s important to stay abreast with the new technologies and techniques to remain relevant in this industry.
"Putting out a press release is now only 15% of the journey,” said Dayton. “Then our team creates an infographic to send to journalists along with it, then we blog about the news, then we Tweet about it."
Further emphasizing the increasing role of digital in communications, Dayton argued that digital public relations campaigns are supplanting traditional lobbying.
“Lobbying doesn't matter the way it once did in terms of access to legislators. The emphasis now is on coalition-building via a digital campaign. Done right, a new digital microsite can generate 10,000 emails to a targeted member of Congress very cheaply and quickly – something that was unthinkable just 10 years ago.”