PR today is vastly different from when I got my start at software marketing in the ’90s. Media relations at the time seem so much simpler in comparison to the whole spectrum of communications activities that exist today.
What has not changed?
Good PR starts with a story. Telling a story in a way that it is factual, interesting, and compelling. In my experience, good PR starts with a lot of prep work, positioning sessions, strategizing about ideas and often building a clearer and better understanding of the product offering even within the organization. It should provide competitive context and requires the ability to see other viewpoints so that messages and stories can be credible and authoritative. This role of PR hasn’t changed.
What has changed? Quite a lot.
Much of the change is in the mechanics of how we broadcast our stories and reach audiences. Media now encompasses a whole universe of social media platforms. There are the influencers. There are opinionated users who react to their experiences with the product. We are seeing fake news (and in the future even deepfakes…) Audiences have seemingly shorter attention spans and need to be continually engaged and entertained. And so the role of PR is now to put together a cohesive plan to spread the word across all of these platforms, but also to be able to monitor and track qualitative and quantitative reach.
One on one media interviews with journalists and analysts have now been augmented with an active conversation, engaging with the audience on multiple fronts. This is an ongoing social conversation, and PR will need to have a credible voice to be a reliable participant in this social conversation. What will not change is that PR must combine art and science. Positioning and storytelling is the art, but it must integrate with science – have strong command of data analytics, to make sense of user sentiments and weave any insights into the ongoing conversation.
The most certain thing is that some aspects of PR will remain within our control while other parts will not. Having a good story to tell, making sure that facts are correct and make sense, and paying attention to audience reactions – those are the key things that will persist.
Beyond that, modern technologies have democratized and enabled individuals to have a voice that can affect change. Communication strategies need to be ready for that and think ahead of how public opinion scenarios may require a swift reaction.
What might be out of our control are platforms and technologies – those will change in directions that we can only begin to predict. Future platforms may require us to interact and communicate using augmented reality presentations, virtual reality, prepare stories to be edited by AI. (And probably many other platforms that I cannot imagine right now.) As media technologies continue to change, PR will continue to evolve. The future is certainly going to be interesting.