The public relations industry is undergoing a huge change. For a discipline that relied on a passive audience, the internet has changed the very structure of PR. Now, anyone with an internet connection can create and share content, influence those around them and can have an impossibly wide reach. There are no limits to conversations that can be had on the internet, an interactivity that traditional print media lacks. Newspapers are still considered our most credible source of information, but for how long? The people once considered as a passive audience now have a wealth of information at their fingertips, with streamlined services to show them what they want and to ignore what they do not.
Technology is responsible for dramatic changes in every area of business. Big data means brands know a lot and can target consumers very precisely – a tool that is incredibly useful in a new PR that is more about aligning brands digitally with their target audiences than getting a story printed in a local newspaper. Public relations was once a one sided affair, an industry that still itself has a PR problem – the idea it exists to trick an audience. With the advent of the internet, however, PR has become a conversation, a process of brand engagement producing community-driven content. Moving away from ‘spin’, the PR buzzwords of today are ‘thought leadership’, ‘facts’ and ‘credibility’. There is an opportunity now to directly communicate with consumers; an opportunity to hear exactly what your publics are saying. Many organisations have realised the value of two-way communication, yet many are still stuck in a broadcasting rut. PR practitioners were some of the first people to understand and begin to utilise social media as a brand development and engagement tool. For a while, they were at the forefront of this new digital social space, then everyone else discovered its value too. It can be difficult to get your message to stick, or even heard in the first place. It is for this reason building relationships is vital in the ‘new PR’ – these relationships are no longer just with journalists. We’ve all seen Tesco Mobile’s way of responding to criticism, often getting other brands on board to join the conversation. It is approaches like these that engage people, encourage word of mouth promotion and increase sales through the ‘followability’ of brands like Old Spice and Charmin. These are tweets people love, the screenshots that people share, the brands that people want to be part of.