The future of public relations

As public relations adapts to the evolving digital media landscape it has brought many changes to the industry.  The death of the traditional press release, the rise of content marketers and the importance of SEO are just three changes and challenges in which the industry is currently facing.

It is important for brands to have a presence and analytics across all relevant platforms, and as the digital platforms evolve this is becoming a challenge.  Philip Young stated in the Public Relations Handbook that, “In today’s media relations, the challenge is to provide the information in a whole range of formats and anticipate need.”  PR Week also reported that YouGov conducted a survey which found that clients were happy with their agencies but they felt PR agencies, “…did not offer truly integrated services and needed to improve their evidence of return on investment.”  This shows how the changes in PR are creating challenges and different work strategies; five years ago clients would not have required evidence of ROI however now it is something which brands/organisations require from an agency.

In 2006, Tom Foremski wrote a blog titled “Die Press Release Die!” and 8 years later this is starting to happen. He stated, “Press releases are created at great expense …to reach the digital and physical trash bins of tens of thousands of journalists. This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.

He then went on to make a proposal: “Deconstruct the press release into special sections and tag the information so that as a publisher, I can pre-assemble some of the news story and make the information useful.” It could be argued this blog post predicted the future as Foremski is describing is very similar to what we currently call content marketing.

Whether Foremski saw the future or not the matter has arisen, PR is changing. Stephen Waddington, President of the CIPR, believes that this change is positive and exciting for the industry. He wrote, “My belief is that media fragmentation and the rise of Internet-driven communication is returning public relations to its roots as a means for an organisation and its brands to engage with the public in a two-way process.”

However, Robert Phillips, the co-founder of Jericho Chambers, a Progressive Communication Consultancy is currently writing a book called “Trust me PR is dead” and he isn’t as positive about the changes PR is facing. In an article by PR Week he said, “PR is dead. Its business model, dominated on the consultancy side by bloated networks selling bureaucracy over transformation and generalists over deep expertise, is broken. This is as “PR has abused and exhausted trust. The restoration of trust is not a function of PR.”

Robert Phillips believes that the future of PR is Public Leadership. He said, “Public leadership respects the world as it is, not the world as it was. It is social because it is of and among the people. . It is democratic because it gives voice to all. It is progressive because it is transformative – flattening hierarchies and embracing networks. It is within networks that big changes happen.”

Although it may seem that Phillips has a negative perception of the future of PR I believe he is just recognising how the PR industry is adapting to the evolving digital landscape.

As a student who has invested money into studying Public Relations, I remain positive that the digital media landscape provides many opportunities within the PR industry. Rob Brown said in Share This Too, “I believe the discipline of PR is in a process of rapid evolution, where knowledge, skills, and practice of public relations are changing. It would be complacent to say this doesn’t present us with some real challenges. It also provides the PR function with some real opportunities.” Although challenging I believe the evolving digital landscape is going to make my career even more exciting as I able to achieve than what was available through traditional PR.


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