Is PR still relevant?

Spinning a story

Public trust in the media is not what it once was. Individuals are more empowered than ever to engage with and challenge the media. Putting a spin on a story or artfully disguising difficult truths was a classic PR move, but not one that’s well received now. The days of ‘managing the message’ are gone – the message is already out before it can be spun and sugared. 

Although storytelling is still a key part of what brands need to do, the accountability brought about by our prolific access to media means companies can’t get away with telling too many lies. Consumers won’t trust brands or corporations like they once did. Instead, trust is earned slowly through actions and evidence. 

Ethics, values and accountability – not spin – are at the forefront of consumers’ minds.

Outcomes not output

PR, in the traditional sense, lacks accountability. The outcome of a PR campaign is notoriously woolly and difficult to define – an industry-wide metric has never been established and the results are difficult to measure. Traditional PR was measured on output, which doesn’t necessarily translate into real results. 

Now, marketers are less willing to sign away chunks of budget for any campaign that isn’t measurable – they want to see the success backed up with statistics. 

The impact of digital and content marketing can be measured with several KPIs (key performance indicators), which is an advantage over traditional PR. Digital PR provides more accountability as more data can be drawn from it – using Google Analytics, for example. 

The pace of PR

Traditional PR is slow – print publications have long lead times which means publicists need to coordinate content with the best publishing date to get the most exposure for their clients. By today’s media standards, that approach seems clunky and untimely. 

News is reported and content is shared almost instantly now through multiple channels and brands can take advantage of free social media to get information out there instantly. 

To stay relevant, publicists are courting bloggers and influencers over traditional media for quick and relatable product placement and promotion. 

The rise of content marketing

SEO is increasingly important for brands. Getting to the top of SERPs (search engine results pages) requires a competent content marketing strategy with blogs, good web copy and backlinks. The exposure that was once achieved with press releases and column inches can now be attained through content – usually a cheaper option with a longer shelf life. 

Content marketing is booming and it’s a logical sidestep for people who have built careers in PR as the skill set required is similar. The brand-building element of PR is more relevant than ever in today’s saturated marketplace, but there are lots of tools to do this now. Many of these (industry blogs, social media, video content) are employed by content marketing strategists. These strategists could well have been in PR in the past – there is a lot of potential overlap in the roles. 

Some traditional PR agencies are moving into the content creation space and evolving into content creation and digital marketing agencies. This is a natural progression as digital PR overtakes traditional print media.

Does PR have a future?

Arguably, PR’s concept is the same as ever – it’s just less about courting the press and more about getting exposure through digital campaigns and social media. The future of PR is focused on the digital sphere. 

PR needs to use data to make sure there’s a good ROI for money spent on it, if it’s to prove its worth. 

In reality, many brands use an integrated strategy of traditional PR, digital PR and content marketing to promote themselves. The definition of PR is hard to pin down as the rules keep changing. 

So in short, the industry needs to keep evolving. 

Staff Writer