Digital Discourse: PR life in the digital age

It is no secret to anyone in the industry that digital is flourishing, whilst traditional is trailing far, far behind. To put it into perspective, in the year between February 2011 and 2012, the UK daily newspaper market fell by 5.2%, with newspapers such as The Financial Times witnessing a staggering 17.8% decline. (Four Media, 2012)*

It may come as no surprise then, that PR’s who do not adapt to this trend – and quickly – are heading towards a pretty dim future. There’s a LOT of PR agencies out there, and it is important that each one stays ahead of the trends to survive in this ever changing world. Print media is declining, which in turn suggests that traditional models of public relations are therefore becoming redundant. However, there are many that argue that nothing will ever replace face-to-face interaction and picking up the telephone. Maybe so, but as print media suffers resource and employment cuts, public relations professionals are now outnumbering journalists, meaning that calling with a press release or asking them to cover an event (which normally there is not enough staff for) simply won’t cut it.

In my eyes, there are a few trends and ways of working which I believe are of utmost importance to keep an eye on…

1. Citizen journalism and user-generated content: The phenomenon of citizen journalism in the digital age has witnessed a significant disruption to the main gatekeepers of the news, with the big media losing its monopoly on the news. This has been discussed as one of the main benefactors in the decline of print media, and is a growing trend which must be identified and acknowledged as a serious influence on the professional PR and journalism industry. Regular individuals have defined the breaking and broadcasting of some of the biggest news stories of the decade, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the US Airways flight landing in the Hudson River in 2009. These people have an extremely powerful influence, and thanks to the Internet and social media, have more of a voice than ever before. This can most regularly come in the form of blogs, of which some of the best have have followers of thousands, and gaining coverage on the right blog can now be more powerful than column inches in a relevant magazine. Therefore, blogger relations and new media relations with this empowered 21st century consumer is one of the most important roles of the future public relations practitioner. It is important that these influential people are considered and utilized into future PR campaigns.

citizen journalism large

2. Blogger Relations:  Too many PR’s make the mistake of assuming that because bloggers carry content, they work like journalists. They don’t. Although some bloggers may be happy to receive a press release, most bloggers refuse PR pitches of any kind, preferring to discover their own sources of content. This of course poses a challenge for PR practitioners, whom are used to conducting traditional media relations in the form of press releases and PR pitches. In one way it is similar, as you would take time to learn about a journalist – what interests them, what their hobbies are and tailoring your communication towards this, you must learn about a blogger (whom often have one significant and passionate interest of which their blog covers). It is actually easier to find out more about a blogger, as their blog may contain personal information on their likes and dislikes, and their posts will be tailored to their individual interests and opinions.

3. Media Relations: Traditionally one of the most important aspects of day to day work as a PR practitioner, Media Relations has defined our role for decades, and has been described as ‘managing relationships with the media – all the writers, editors and producers who contribute to and control what appears in the print, broadcast and online media.’ Some believe that the advent of social media has allowed media relations to be bypassed, letting the public relations practitioner communicate directly with the consumer, whilst others believe that the Internet is merely offering us a new and closer way to build relationships with journalists, and that media relations is changing.

4. Creativity online: Creativity online is paramount, and key in getting you noticed (and definitely the fun bit!) The most successful campaigns have been viral, but you must ensure that you tap into the target audiences interests, passions and what makes them tick. Posting a boring video on YouTube and making the office watch it does not equal billions of viral views. It is also important that you understand your channels, instead of letting it stagnate in the YouTube digi-sphere. Not only viral videos, but Audio, Video and Digital Branding elements are all vital to ensuring your online presence stands out from all others.



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