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Ten ways PR is changing by digital strategist Emma Gannon

8th May 2013

PR is all about authentic ongoing communication, and there’s no doubt that the way we communicate has vastly changed from the old-school PR days. In fact it’s evolving daily. So, in a world of thousands of media channels and front-page headlines as a result of an accidental tweet, can we just remind ourselves, what is PR?

The official definition: ”Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”

And with that little thing called the Internet (and all the latest innovations from Silicon Valley) and the fact that our media industry (sadly) doesn’t resemble Mad Men any more, how has PR changed?

1. Sending a press release will not cut it. Or maybe the term “press release” has a different meaning now. It used to be a boring essay with some fluffy words about an “exciting” launch. Now that we all have extra-short attention spans and enjoy consuming bite-size media such as amusing GIFs and converse in 140 characters, a press release should be a quick email and a link to something eye-catching. Attaching an over-embellished Word document is ancient history. Make the subject line in the email chatty. Even if you fake an “RE:”.

2. We’re all busy. Journalists are really busy. Due to all these new social platforms, journalists are even more inundated. Triple-screening, Twitter-scrolling, article writing, live reporting. As technology has evolved, so have people’s jobs, so why would anyone want to be briefed by someone they don’t know, about something they didn’t ask for, in a long-winded fashion via the telephone? Like Twitter Sales Guy @DaraNsar always says, people want #realtalk now (“hey, how’s it going?”) not “work talk’” (“could we please converse at your earliest convenience”).

3. News travels faster than before. For something to relevant and timely it has to have literally just happened not “happened a few days ago“. Don’t miss the boat else you’ll be late to the party.

4. We have a different relationship with print now. We want to read interesting newsworthy and concise stories on our way home from work. We also want to sit down and consume long-form content when we have time. However, we will most likely skim-read anything that seems “sponsored” or promoted in print media. Relevancy is the future, which can be achieved through social targeting. Why annoy your audience with a randomly placed advertorial? Divide up your audiences and target them based on the information available, and give people what they actually want. Consumers are getting savvier and they know when they are trying to be told something, or sold something. Sometimes, mass broadcast is not the best advice for your clients.

5. Sending freebies doesn’t automatically make people like you. Unfortunately there are actually rules in place now that means you can’t just send your journalists a massive hamper from Harrods and call it a day. Sometimes, (I’ve seen tweets from many journos on Twitter) it actually makes them pity you because you are giving away your brand’s dignity for free. Instead, make amazing talk-worthy content and get people contacting YOU for a sample and some more information.

6. Journalists get information from many other sources. They will gather their stories, images and inspiration from an array of social media platforms. PROs who handle celebrity profiles must make sure these personal platforms are handled with care, because many consumer magazines/papers will extract images straight from Instagram. Recheck what’s exclusive and what’s not before you sell in.

7. It is even more crucial to be visual. The general public has never had a shorter attention span. We cannot watch YouTube videos longer than three minutes anymore, we want to talk in 140 characters, we text, tweet, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Draw something, Facebook message, IM, Google chat. We don’t read an envelope you sent in the mail which no decoration and a lot of random words about your “exciting exclusive launch with Mr-I’ve-never-heard-of-you“.

8. PR is nothing without the Internet. Journalists are bloggers, bloggers are journalists. Scanning the papers has been revolutionised by Google alerts. Let the news come to you. An offline PR event can be live streamed, live tweeted, live blogged – your guests can join a Google Hangout. Your audience is online and they will not be broadcasted to. Many of your audience are creating content themselves and increasingly rebelling against what they feel they are being told to consume.

9. You have less control. Sounds scary but it’s actually quite exciting. You can now reach millions of people very quickly. OK, one wrong tweet and you’re on the front page of the Metro – but you can also spread amazing, valuable, exciting messages like wildfire if you have the right strategy in place. Great ideas have never been so catchy. Twitter is the new “word of mouth” (WOM).

10. Language is constantly changing. “Messaging” is still crucial, but we are becoming immune to commercial-chat and want to hear real words, from real people, in the way we speak to our own friends and colleagues. Fluffy press materials will go in one ear and out the other. Cut down the fluff and start speaking social. (See point 2).

Also, for fun, here’s a “then and now” infographic on the changing ways of PR.

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