It’s always difficult to forecast the future, especially in a world of fast-moving and ever-evolving technology, but it is worth thinking ahead if you want to be prepared for any changes and developments that might affect you.
PR (public relations) is no different and a lot of has been debated about how much it has changed in recent years and where it is going in the next five. But don’t let this worry you. You don’t need to re-learn everything you already understand about PR, even though you might be told that you do by those who want to create an air of mystique about the practice.
Let’s not get carried away here, digital PR has been around for decades – a company in the East Midlands was operating computerised media databases and creating automatic forward features reports way back in the early 1980s. Press packs were being produced on CDs and prototype e-newsletters were being produced. They just didn’t use the word ‘digital’ at the time.
To listen to some organisations, you could easily be mistaken for thinking that digital communications are part of an earth-changing revolution that began just a couple of years ago. You could even begin to believe that the Google tail has forever been wagging the PR dog which has been struggling to keep up with its master.
True, there is now a much greater emphasis on meeting that search engine’s criteria and making every piece of PR that you produce SEO-friendly – which means search engines are more likely to find your material when people enter certain keywords into Google et al.
All of this is very important, of course. It certainly isn’t good if your company appears on page five of a list of names that a search has produced. Apparently, few people ever get past the first few entries on a page, let alone the first or second pages. But don’t despair, not everyone can be top of the list and any decent PR agency will know how to make your material as easy as possible for your customers and prospects to find.
The key issue here is not to be bamboozled by the digital maze and lose sight of what your PR activities should be about. In essence, PR still has the following three functions and these will never change:
- to increase awareness of your company, brand and products
- to enhance the reputation of your organisation
- to inform the media – and hence your customers and potential customers – of the latest developments and achievements from your business
These are still the main goals, it is really only the form of getting them across that has changed. Nobody should be surprised that paper-based methods of spreading information are on the wane and have been for some time. Even daily newspapers that sell for up to £1 at a time are directing their readers to free websites to read their news and articles (although at the moment most people still prefer to read their news offline instead on a mobile phone screen).
So what will the next five years bring? Certainly more and more material will be available online and the media that is interested in your organisation will be able to interact with what you have to offer much more than at present. It is also likely that PR will become far more ‘pull’ than ‘push’, which means journalists will expect to be able to search for and access material that they want rather than have to ask for it to be sent to them. In five years’ time most companies should have an online newsroom and/or a virtual press office for this very purpose and understand that PR material will need to be prepared in anticipation of it being used far more randomly and instantly than at present.
This will mean much more focussed planning of PR programmes. It will also mean greater appreciation by everyone involved in the public relations mix – including sales and marketing teams as well as end-users and customers – that PR is not just about responding to requests and putting out a press release every month. In the future, far more PR material will need to be posted online in anticipation of market developments so that it is instantly accessible when required.
It’s never easy to keep up with the fast pace of changes in this increasingly digital world but that’s why PR specialists exist. Whatever your concerns might be about the digital world and the challenges that it creates, you can take comfort from the fact that – if you’ve chosen your agency wisely – they are already way ahead of the game and looking to the future.
To learn more about digital communications and PR, contact Changeworks through this link or call 01785 247588.