In 2011, under pressure to remain relevant in the age of social media, the leaders of the PR world decided to attempt a rebrand. New media was changing the way we think of communication between brands and consumers, turning the top-down model on its head. And so, the thought leaders of PR gathered together to find an answer to a somewhat simple question: what is public relations?

Blog-Iphone-PR

 

Now, nine years later, we are asking ourselves this question yet again. Because as our perception of the public changes, so too must the way we interact with that public.

 

 

The advent of social media didn’t just bring two way communication, it brought with it the 24-hour news cycle and birthed the influencer industry. The latter especially, has seemingly monopolized a once critical function of the public relations firm: the way in which brands reach and relate to their customers.

The influencers and content creators of the post-influencer era, don’t just push products, they take a brand’s story and make it personal. In an age where consumers are demanding more authenticity from brands, what could be more authentic than real people offering up testimonials and personal experiences to an audience that trusts them? Not much probably. But just because we live in an age of direct communication, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a need for a middle man. If anything, a relevant PR strategy is more important than ever in 2020. 

 

Why PR is Still Necessary

Simply put, influencers cannot do it all. While many brands are entering into longer-term partnerships and offering creators more control over the direction of campaigns, there is still a need for oversight. While PR in 2020 might have less direct control over the way in which the public interacts with a brand, they still serve a critical function.

 

Managing a Message Across Multiple Channels

With the advent of new media, brands have found that to effectively interact with the public they must broadcast their message across multiple channels. From social media, to podcasting, to vlogging, there are a plethora of avenues available to brands looking to make connections. And each of these avenues can represent a different demographic and target audience. Managing these channels to ensure a cohesive, positive message, one that casts the brand in the best light possible, is where PR becomes crucial. 

While the most successful marketing campaigns today leverage the connectedness of social media to create genuine experiences, it is PR’s job to ensure that the landscape into which these campaigns are launched is as positive to the brand as possible. Good PR, works hand in hand with marketing to ensure positive coverage, whether that comes in the form of user feedback on social media, or more traditional institutions. And speaking of the traditional…

 

The Press Release is Not Dead 

Yes, despite what you may have heard, that most traditional of PR functions, the press release, has not given up the ghost just yet. But, like most everything else in the influencer landscape, it has evolved. 

Today’s press releases take their cues from the best new media has to offer. With blogs being a great resource for broadening an audience, some companies are choosing to turn the various elements of their press releases and turn them into content that powers a more personalized-style blog post. 

However, even for those companies who forgo the blog-style press release, there are plenty of options to liven it up. Using videos, images, and infographics to create a highly visual experience is another way to express the facts a press release aims to lay out, while making sure to keep the audience engaged. 

 

24-hour News Cycle Means More Opportunity for Crises to Arise

There is always something going on. And with the advent of social media and the rise of smartphones, consumers are always in a position to access breaking news. That means, a bad turn is the press can be immediate and the consequences severe. 

Due to the rise of social media activism and increased calls for accountability, PR experts are predicting an increase in the need for crisis management throughout 2020. Authenticity can only go so far as the actions informing it. The Black Lives Matter movement of this year is a good example of what can happen when brands fail to respond to the cultural zeitgeist in a timely fashion, as well as the backlash that can come from performative responses

While handling crises and managing a brand’s reputation is one of PR’s oldest functions, the above situations showcase why this role is more crucial than ever in today’s digital society. A good PR team will help brands keep ahead of the curve when it comes to crisis situations and help maintain the delicate balance between authenticity and accountability. 

 

A More Connected World, A More Holistic Role

“Everything is PR.” It’s a common saying in the industry. In our increasingly connected world, information is exchanged in the blink of an eye. Every move we make, every image we share, every business decision, there is someone watching, someone affected by it.

PR today, must be holistic. Yes it is crisis management and reputation management, but when that reputation is spread over multiple channels, PR has to be as well. It has to be whatever is needed to ensure that the balance between a brand’s story, the experience they provide, and the accountability their followers expect is continuously achieved. That means good PR has to be good marketing. It has to be analytics and AItoo. But just because the aforementioned elements are present, doesn’t mean that PR is vanishing. 

Like everything else in our digital lives, it is simply becoming more integrated.