The evolution of PR
I have only recently entered the world of B2B public relations but feel lucky to have done so at one of the most exciting times in its history. This excitement has been caused, I believe, by the rise of social media.
Just a few years ago, the only way journalists could receive information from PRs was via fax machines, ‘snail mail’ or over the telephone. Press releases were still the ‘in thing’ and media coverage was measured in column inches. As for photography, the digital camera didn’t exist. Instead camera film had to be developed and pinned – or blue tacked - to the front of a release before distribution. Yes email did exist, but it was in its infancy and it did little to set the world alight.
Fast forward to 2013; the PRO’s life exists online. And, thanks to the advent of social media, today’s PR activities have become increasingly characterised by interactivity, variety and immediacy. There’s no time to wait for a Royal Mail delivery these days. PR has to contend with the one billion smartphone users accessing the internet wherever and whenever they like. Meanwhile Facebook is verging on 900 million users, LinkedIn has over 150 million members, and there are over 140 million people on Twitter. To put it bluntly, the PR industry has had to ‘keep up’, if it hadn’t it would have risked being left behind and becoming redundant.
So how has traditional PR changed?
Some things haven’t, for example, content is still king...
Effective writing skills have always been essential for those working in PR, whether they are put to use producing a perfect press release, crafting a great email pitch or writing a thought provoking article. In fact, if anything, writing is now a skill that is more important than ever. Well written, engaging and thought provoking content whether in the form of a blog, article or a comment can now go viral online without the need for much pushing (or paying). And it’s all thanks to social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If the content is fresh and engaging, the audience will click on the share button thereby gaining the client even more coverage.
And communication is still key...
Building solid relationships with journalists and prominent media publishers will always be of value. The building of relationships still relies on PROs biting the bullet and picking up the phone to articulate their best pitch, and if the opportunity arises, meeting the journalist face to face (the lure of a free drink or lunch has always been effective in prising journalists from their computer screens). The value of such meetings will never change but the advent of social media has offered PROs and journalists a new way to communicate, one that is more direct, less time consuming and of additional benefit to everyone involved. Tweeting journalists with a pitch and following #journorequest are great ways of keeping apprised of the topics and trends prompting specialists to get on their soapbox. Once the soapbox is identified then it’s once again up to the PRO to find how their client can make a relevant approach.
While my experience working in B2B PR is currently limited, I have already learnt that the traditional principles underpinning a successful career in PR, whether they are effective communication skills or the ability to write engagingly, have not been diminished or overtaken by the rise of social media. If anything the excitement that I see filtering through the industry has been prompted by the new and exciting opportunities that social media has added to our age-old, practiced art.
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