Digital technology has changed everything about the way we live; from the way we shop and interact with friends to how we work and consume information. And like nearly every other industry, public relations had to evolve to remain viable in this digital age. Disruptive PR can show return across business channels like never before.
In 1982, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defined PR as a practice that “helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” Today, PR at its best ethically engages with the media by becoming a source of credible content; and not only creates market traction but attracts investors and possible business partners in the process.
A Changed Industry
It can be easily argued that what PR is today is totally different in practice from what it was nearly 40, 20, or even 10 years ago. This is due in large part to the way digital disruption has impacted journalism.
With the onset of “fake news” and social media, in journalism today accuracy now trumps being first to publish. In fact, Cision’s 2018 global State of the Media survey found that globally, 75% of media say that ensuring content is 100% accurate is most important for their organization—a vastly different mindset from the early days of journalism!
The challenge for PR agencies is to know and understand the most effective strategies to get a client’s story in front of journalists so that they will be published and get the validation needed to be successful. But how do you do accomplish this in today’s digital media landscape where social media and citizen journalism — when ordinary people report on newsworthy situations —has become a major industry disruptor, blurring the lines of media credibility?
“Fake PR” – Advertising Disguised as PR
The blurred lines between editorial and advertising are an ongoing challenge for mainstream journalism and PR alike. Unearned or “fake” PR is any publicity that is paid for that is falsely presented as an authentic editorial or a news story instead of what it really is—advertising. It occurs when a media company is paid to write or publish a favorable, one-sided story about a company. Examples of this type of “fake PR” can include sponsored, Q&A, advertorials, and paid-for-advertising. These types of “publicity” do not validate content and should not be confused with PR or journalism.
Earned Media – The Value Of PR
It’s simple really. Earned PR is the most valuable content produced to support brand awareness. This style of PR is what we think of as “traditional PR,” where publicity is garnered through establishing good relationships with journalists and publications who will publish business news, opinion and thought leadership quotes and articles to compliment news-desk features and publication schedules. Brands are chosen on the perceived value of influence of that brand.
Beyond the Press Release – Why Traditional Methods Won’t Deliver
In decades past, brands would win press opportunities by submitting well-written press releases and paying to publish on a newswire site, where journalists would look to find their next story. This style of PR, however, has proven more difficult for journalists with the growing influence of technology. With so many startups and tech innovations, the time it takes for a journalists to research a product or service, determine “proof of concept” and to feel confident referencing a brand is more difficult than ever. Journalists are inundated with requests to feature the next best gadget, app or SaaS offering, that it is a challenge to find quality in content that is necessary to develop a story. And for these reasons, the traditional press release wire method doesn’t work for unestablished brands.
Modern-Day PR – Trends and tactics
As digital media continues to blur the lines between PR and marketing, integrated PR campaigns are the key to successful PR campaigns. In years past when a business received PR, it lived for a day and lined the kitty litter box the next. In our digital age of marketing, SEO, user journey, call to action and social promotion are key to garnering the return necessary to support campaign budgets.
Editorial coverage is the best method for establishing a brand. This valuable content, published by a newspaper, magazine or journal. This coverage is under the direction of the journalist, not the company or PR agency and is never paid for. An editorial is an article that presents the newspaper’s opinion on an issue.
The term “thought leader” is coined as a person who deeply understands their business, the needs of their customers and the marketplace in which they operate. When used as part of a PR strategy, it is incorporated into easily consumable content that validates a brand and brand leader’s expertise.
Successful PR campaigns are impossible without a social media component. Once it is understood how to best use each social media platform and on which platforms to promote a client; PR professionals can push out company news updates, blog posts, surveys and white papers to establish a client’s social media presence. Without a social media strategy, most PR campaigns will fail to showcase a return.
Yes, the face of PR has and will continue to change with the influence of new technologies. It is an ever-evolving industry. But we can embrace the digital revolution while holding onto the foundation of what makes PR a needed resource for corporations and startups, big and small—building great relationships, influencing strong brand identity, creating compelling storytelling and successfully bringing products to market.