Gone are the days of sending out press releases via “snail mail” and physically cutting newspaper articles out with scissors and pasting them into a clip book. No one uses a rolodex to look up contacts or land lines to check into the office. While the essence of public relations has remained the same over the years – to protect, manage and improve a brand or company’s reputation – the introduction of the web and social media has drastically transformed the way PR professionals operate.
In order for our PR efforts to continue to be successful in the changing market, PR professionals now have to change who we pitch and how we pitch depending on the media outlet. While pitching to newspapers, magazines and broadcast is still a crucial component to the PR industry, the web has introduced another extremely valuable media channel: the blog. Blogs allow PR professionals to locate and target niche markets for nearly every topic imaginable which gives insight into trending topics and online influencers.
The introduction of blogs has changed the way PR professionals write their press releases today. As pointed out in the book, The New Rules of PR by David Meerman Scott, in the past, press releases were only pitched to press. They were only written when major news occurred and were only made public if a journalist chose to make the news into a story. Today, however, press releases are created to reach consumers directly, include links to other sources of valuable information and are sent out much more frequently.
Frequent and “digitized” press releases are the most successful in today’s world, suggests the PRSA in a recent post. Digitized releases include links and social media outlets so readers can easily share news. Digitized press releases, as PRSA explains, also incorporate carefully chosen keywords to improve search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is a key element of a press release that PR professionals never had to think about just a few years ago. However, having a keyword-rich copy is crucial today since a great press release is useless if the right people can’t find it. To further increase the chances of a press release being found, the PRSA explains that the new wave of PR professionals turn to social media to tweet their releases and post their releases on Facebook for optimum exposure. But sharing news is just one of the many ways PR professionals employ social media on a day-to-day basis.
Social media has allowed PR professionals to join the conversation with key consumers in real-time. In the past, groundbreaking news meant something that happened yesterday. With the introduction of social media, groundbreaking news has to be instantaneous – or real-time – to be newsworthy and to garner media attention.
For example, when the Superbowl dome lost power, Oreo took full advantage of the situation and the power of social media and tweeted, “You can still dunk in the dark” just moments after the blackout occurred. Oreo’s real-time tweet generated over 10,000 retweets in less than an hour, showing us just how important it is to think on your feet and react instantly in the PR industry today.
The fact that Oreo could instantaneously see the media attention, retweets and comments, brings up another significant change in PR over the last few years: the ability to measure the success of PR efforts. In addition to counting retweets or “likes” on Facebook, a post on Marketing Land explains that websites and programs such as Klout, Google Analytics and Technorati, allow website click-throughs and social media followers to be tracked, monitored and managed. It has finally become possible to show the ROI of public relations and social media campaigns.
As PR success becomes easier to illustrate, it’s no doubt that the role of public relations within organizations will continue to grow in coming years. In the past decade alone, the industry has changed so much that common PR operations in the ‘90s are almost unrecognizable today. The changes in the industry have allowed PR professionals to reach wider audiences and communicate directly with consumers. As technology continues to advance it seems that pubic relations will also continue to evolve with it.
How do you think the industry will change over the next 5 years? How about over the next 10 years?
This infographic created by InkHouse Media + Marketing looks deeper into the ways PR has evolved over the years:
*Written by PR Intern Shelby Hickox. Shelby is a senior at Boston University, graduating in 2013 with a degree in Public Relations.