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Digital Media Forum

Today I spoke at the Digital Media Forum in Dubai, and shared my thoughts on the evolution of public relations – as it shifts from its tried-and-tested (and decades-old) ‘traditional’ approach to one that prioritizes the digital environment.

From the days where press releases, column inches, interviews and press conferences were the focus of PR practitioners, I explained that convergence of media platforms and the explosion of technology on social channels is changing the entire field of PR. The focus of PR once was only on distributing content – a one dimensional approach void of engagement to spread messages to wide audiences.

In this digital age, the focus of PR is unlike it has ever been; there are better ways to gain detailed understanding of audiences, to target and engage one-on-one, to drive conversations between consumers and brands, to leverage the power of third-party endorsement, and to measure the impact and outcome of PR activity. We are seeing the traditional ‘PR toolkit’ merging with the ‘digital PR toolkit’ that requires a completely integrated approach.

Among others, one thing I stressed today, was that the one constant in this time of PR evolution is the importance of quality content – which actually has been the foundation of public relations since day one. PR has always been about storytelling – and we’ve been doing ‘content marketing’ (the hot buzzword of today) for years. But in the digital age, content is even more important for a few reasons.

Nowadays, our target audiences no longer buy printed copies of newspapers in the morning or thick magazines at the supermarket; audiences consume most content on their smartphones and expect it to be eye-catching, snappy, and more often than not in video format. They want brands to be publishers of quality and interesting content, that is shareable and share worthy – think infographics, video clips and vlogs to name a few.

Importantly in this digital age, content must still be based on a core narrative (messages), and developed only after an intimate understanding of the target audience is in-hand. In the digital age, this understanding is like never before. Content is necessary for earned, shared and owned media, and must resonate with the target audiences in order for a change in perception or understanding to happen, and ultimately action be taken.

And content must be quality because of the importance of SEO. Google’s algorithm values quality content and authority, made possible only through the production of content in any format across earned, shared and owned media platforms. Remember too that quality content is important for third party advocates – ‘influencers’ – in order to drive trust and enable influence among our target audiences.

‘Content is King’ so the cliché goes, and this has never been more important than it is now.