On reading an interesting blog on PRMoment, the sector news site, I couldn't help but feel a sense of relief that it's official - the ring-round is dead. Research by a fellow agency looked at the differences in PR brains from the late 1980s to now. Those of us well into our public relations careers have lived through the evolution of PR, and might I say are in a brilliant position to combine experience with a digital approach, but there are certainly some things that the research said were dying out that I won't miss. Chasing up a press release is one! There's something soul destroying about knowing that having done the initial story introduction / sell-in, you're bugging a journalist that would have contacted you if the story was a runner, but your client or employer understandably expects you to keep pushing it. Every day I see a comment on Twitter from journalists saying 'please don't call me - I'll call you if I'm interested'. Even though we know things have moved on (although I doubt anyone ever welcomed a call with a non-story), our clients often worry about letting go of the press release. We now need to help our clients understand that there is little risk in letting it go, and in fact there is more risk in not putting resources more into digital networking. This may be slightly easier in-house, if you can gather an audience, but perhaps an event with clients to explain how things have changed would help.
Measurement is, rightly so, what our bill payers are after - and proof of ROI. We have to prove that cuttings no longer demonstrate success - not on their own, anyway, and are not the leading metric. Measurement, as pointed out in the blog I was reading, is real-time, analytics driven, all about sentiment and influence - not column inches. Many have already moved more into backing digital PR efforts, and now appreciate that Likes and followers aren't the sole measure of success. Some know that the quality of these is the key. Who is following you, are they likely to become customers or advocates? But some, I have a feeling, are a long way from dropping the press cuttings as the most important sign of success.
Perhaps when it comes to hiring a marketing agency, digital is understood and embraced more, as the measurable outputs are clear as day, but it all needs to tie up. Our customers, employees, and opinion-formers are all chatting away online, and this will sometimes be while Rome burns, if PR experts aren't trusted to propel a client into the digital space. Online community and crisis management are two areas where PR is now the key player, and increasingly this can move into mobile, where businesses need to be, along with social media and press campaigns that understand the customer and how they behave. Young women for example are the key buyers online, flitting between devices and networks, and far more likely to be persuaded to buy as a result of recommendation on a social network or by a peer. A great piece in a national newspaper or even a glossy magazine won't reach them.
The other by product of the digital age is the sound track to PR. Less so the phone call to media contacts, more the tap tap of social networking and building rapport online, in our time-poor fast moving 'always on' world. Hmm. Anyone fancy a chat?