Digital PR is evolving at an accelerating rate. While it will always be true that content messaging is the core of public relations, if your content strategies don’t keep up with current trends in information distribution and user habits, you will be left behind as the world continues spinning faster and faster.
Here’s the reality, where once a relatively small number of gatekeepers controlled access to the consumer public in a limited time window based on deadlines and news cycles, social media and constant ‘net access have blown that classic paradigm wide open.
The basic public relations message flow (create, refine, distribute, manage, develop) has become an almost simultaneous transaction. Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing, put it this way:
“From tablets to smartphones to getting digital content via your car, the relationship between technology and people has had a major impact on how information is discovered, consumed and shared or acted upon.”
While I agree with Lee in principle, I don’t think he takes his analysis far enough. The relationship between tech and human users is now so simultaneous as to be almost organic. Because of the constant flow and the easy proximity, information delivered via smartphone or tablet is given much higher validity than almost any other form of communication. They see it on TV or read it in the paper and “believe it”, but if they read it on Facebook, they instantly internalize it and are already forming and distributing a response before they even take a moment to properly process the information.
Traditional public relations is splintering into various applications based on the ever-evolving technology trends. While traditional markets and traditional avenues are still viable, these can never be enacted without also considering the social media aspect of the program. The immediate nature of social media has launched an increase in advocacy, relationship, and crisis PR. Representation must more closely manage their clients and be ready and able to jump into a cycle if the messaging is about to spin out of control. That can happen almost instantaneously on social media. One errant tweet can cost a job, innumerable customers, and tens of millions of dollars.
Digital platforms and the evolution of user-centered message processing are also forcing brands to “become” their own media. Companies like GoPro have built very successful campaigns doing this. Others, such as Walmart and McDonald’s, have struggled to transition from traditional media PR to successful social campaigns.
The best of the best move beyond features and benefits to true, social-built storytelling. One of the upsides to instant media messaging is the ability to create and manage a mythos around your brand. Strong, sharable content weaving brand management in and through a compelling story has immense value in today’s digital age.
Finally, the gatekeeper-influencer dynamic is much different. Sure, there are still plenty of publications out there that buy ink by the barrel, but there are also key influencers in every market niche or demographic that can make or break a PR campaign.
Jarone Ashkenazi of PMBC Group said it is nothing less than “imperative” that PR pros “reach out to these highly targeted niche influencers to effectively grow brand recognition.”
Filtered through the right influencers on YouTube or social media, a campaign can have exponential impact in a way that compels a direct, personal response.
So what about you? How has the evolving technology of the digital age influenced your public relations efforts?