In recent years we have seen a change in communication tools, tone of voice, communication channels, communication formats & even the types of people communicating! In ‘traditional’ communication, the main channels for mass media coverage were press, radio, and television. In the past it was sufficient to schedule a press release and have a representative of the company inform the public re information they were willing to release. Today, however, this one-way form of communication is no longer sufficient. The high demand for two-way communication, combined with the desire for readily available information has changed the way businesses interact with the public. Simply put: traditional PR is one-way communication, digital PR is two-way.
These days the average consumer can now be reached in a cheaper, more personalized way than ever – from customized automated emails to social media campaigns. This is the age of personalization and transparency. Messages that are overly corporate and advertisements that talk directly about their product are old news.
Campaigns that attempt to ‘appeal to the masses’ are no longer relevant. We want to be entertained. We want to be educated. Most of all, we want to see ourselves through what we’re shown. S.H. Simmons sums up the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations very effectively:
“If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.”
S. H. SIMMONS
Advertising and Public Relations: the increasing merge of earned and paid media
Until recently, advertising and PR were two separate disciplines focused on two predominantly different stakeholder groups. However, the goal for both remains the same. To enhance brand/client reputation and increase awareness/visibility among target audiences, often to generate sales. Today, the reputation of a brand is built on more channels than ever before. These channels have expanded to the digital realm of social media, websites and other online media. It is essential to create an integrated strategy in which the power of both earned and paid media is fully leveraged. These two must work coherently to create and maintain a uniform brand identity. And remember earning your reputation is a lot harder than paying for it!
Arguably, online PR is a critical part of the media mix in the digital world and a cost effective weapon in any marketer’s arsenal. With this in mind, it should be considered and debated to be a focus theme for any media review.
Digital PR: “How quickly could you respond to a brand crisis?”
Traditional PR: “Back in my day, before the internet came along, there was no such thing as ‘going viral’. It wasn’t all that important to respond as quick as we could. We had time to figure out exactly what it was that we wanted say. We had time to strategize.”
Digital PR: “So your responses were calculated … you didn’t respond from the heart.”
Traditional PR: “Brands weren’t as ‘humanized’ back then. Funny how the digital world has popularized that. Seems quite ironic, really.”
Because the digital world is a fast-paced, dynamic environment, it can be hard to keep up. Mistakes can happen. This is a challenge for digital PR professionals, who have to constantly monitor and participate in conversations across all of these two-way communication channels. In this type of environment, PR professionals have had to increase their working scope to strategize in more areas than before.
Managing more content across multiple platforms can be a challenging task – one that is reliant on being culturally sensitive, inclusive and appropriate for each communication platform. An effective strategy for PR professionals would be to create behavioral profiles in order to understand the differences between audiences across multiple platforms. It is not necessary to change content for each platform. Instead change the tone, language, style, and structure of your content to accommodate your different audiences.
Being able to adapt the way you communicate wasn’t as heavily emphasized in traditional PR roles
While traditional PR still accomodates a lot of communication from PR departments, the resource allocation towards digital PR has grown significantly each year. With the sheer volume of digital platforms available, digital PR has evolved into a department that demands new respect as its own category.
Public value & opinion versus authorative figures
Authorative roles aren’t what they used to be. Influencers (Journalists, Academics, Celebrities etc.) will have a much larger impact on reach and engagement than the average online user. However, every average online user has their own level of influence among their social spheres. Quantifying this is a difficult task that seems somewhat negligible when strategizing brand reputation.
Digital PR skeptics
The need for traditional PR has not diminished. I doubt that it’s value will fade any time soon. Much of the public still relies on television, newspapers and radio for information.
Some skeptics will prefer traditional kinds of media communication, because as Abraham Lincoln said in 1868: “You can’t believe everything that you read on the internet.”