2011 forecast series… PR

In the lead up to the release of Marketing magazine’s annual publication for 2012, The Marketing Survival Guide, we’re winding back the clock to the start of last year and sharing the ‘Industry leader’ columns from 2011′s Digital Survival Guide to see just how much has changed, what has stayed the same, and generally what life was like over a year ago across eight areas of digital marketing, continuing today with PR, in a piece titled ‘Back on solid ground’.

 

2 Feb 2011 – Developments and advances in digital technologies are influencing the practise of public relations. But does this influence require a seismic shift for public relations? Or should public relations professionals view the changing digital landscape as tremors, best addressed by the confirmation and reminder of bedrock principles of public relations?

It’s challenging keeping up with the pace of digital change and ideas. Just as we sort through RSS and SEO, analytics and apps, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, along comes augmented reality, cloud computing, geo- targeting and media meshing. Social media, web 2.0, is almost last season before the trends are confirmed, and the next season of semantic web, web 3.0, is arriving.

Digital has transformed the way information is stored, sorted and retrieved. The way knowledge is built is shifting. Mobile and portable media are now mainstream, and traditional journalism faces a different future. In the digital world, there’s a lot more talk, but being part of a conversation often means navigating through chatter and noise. The pace and scope of these changes are challenging, but the changes present unparalleled opportunities to listen, connect, participate, engage and understand.

Face-to-face events are being complemented by and, in some cases, replaced with meetings in a virtual world. We’re talking in rooms and conference centres, but we’re tweeting with a hash tag from there too, and some of the keynotes are coming in on Skype. We’re in webinars, uploading and downloading in SlideShare, and posting reviews on blogs and wikis.

Anchoring practice in principles is the approach for public relations to take when riding these waves of constant change. It serves to get back to basics – reminding ourselves that public relations is about building relationships and communities. Public relations is also about scanning and spanning boundaries between organisations, stakeholders and audiences, and environments that are increasingly dynamic. Back to basics means being clear about your goal and objectives, the messages you need to communicate, the conversations in which you participate. Back to basics means integration. Digital shouldn’t be viewed as novel or new. And digital hasn’t eclipsed or replaced traditional communication. Rather, digital increases the breadth and depth of choices we need to make in order to communicate.

The back to basics approach may seem elementary, but with choice and constant change come challenge and complication. Public relations professionals need to match the return to principles and back to basics, with expertise and a skillset to operate in both traditional and new communication spaces. These skills and expertise are evolving rather than mastered, drawing on dynamic knowledge and a fluid approach to learning. Digital audiences are shifting emphasis from browsing and consuming information, to contributing and sharing content, and increasing participation in conversations. There’s new connectivity and platforms offering opportunities to communicate online.

The successful public relations professional must have agility to operate in this environment. This agility needs to be balanced by a foundation of strong analytical and strategic thinking, a core skill set, a commitment to maintaining current knowledge and the attitude to adapt.

Public relations doesn’t need a seismic shift. The tremors will continue, but public relations is returning to solid ground.

 

Jon Bisset
BY Jon Bisset ON 31 October 2012
CEO, Public Relations Institute of Australia