As we bid farewell to 2015 and welcome in 2016, a spirit of change and new beginning is in the air. It is perhaps a pertinent time to examine how PR has evolved over the past few years, with its shift towards a digital landscape one that is accelerating ever rapidly and likely to dominate in the future.
One major new direction has been the rise of digital influencers in the region; individuals or groups who have become as important to us as traditional journalists. Bloggers, socialites and media analysists who spread their thoughts and opinions across the digital sphere have developed a status as highly effective messengers and are now regarded as credible vehicles to spread a client’s news to the right audience. Their rapid ascendency in the industry now sees them as trusted by clients who are prepared to pay them well for the influence they have on their followers.
Of course, influencers wouldn’t have the impact they do without the social media platforms that spread their reach, maximise their exposure and ensure a more accessible flow of information to their followers. Traditional PR still has a vital role to play, but the majority of clients are now harnessing the benefits of the digital era with social media strategies that complement their PR plans. Although social media platforms don’t offer the same degree of control as traditional PR – as there is always a risk of an incorrect or negative message being delivered – it still offers an unrivalled way of reaching a large audience quickly and can facilitate a company’s goals in the most effective manner.
Developing a narrative is no longer an activity restricted to press releases and editorials. Social media platforms are now fed by strong content which helps in creating firmer bonds with the target audience. Blogs, case studies, infographics and eBooks are now essential tools in keeping pace with the evolving PR sector. Similarly, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) wasn’t previously perceived to be as crucial as it is now, with press releases initially the means of driving up search rankings. SEO has now become an integral aspect of PR and is achieved through digital quality and content.
The new digital landscape sees clients demanding measurable, accurate data and provable Return On Investment on which to base decisions. ‘Advertising Equivalent Value’ is something that is becoming less and less relevant, with companies increasingly convinced by website traffic, leads, search rankings and revenue. This forces PR to use technology and software tools that can analyse large volumes of data to determine the true impact of PR efforts and spend.
It is a demanding task to keep up with the changing PR environment, but there are plenty of opportunities that have opened up for brands and the public to connect. This places us in the best position to spread messages and reach out to our target audience. If the experience of these past few years and the rapid evolution of the PR industry into the digital sphere is anything to go by, then we can expect the next few years to be as equally exciting, if not more so. One thing is for certain, we will need to continue adapting to the digital landscape. Either that or be happy to just reminisce about the ‘Golden Days’ of the industry.