PR in a Digital Era

A lot has changed since many of us first embarked on a career in communications. In our latest IABC EMENA board blog, Jasna Suhadolc takes a look at how technology has influenced how we work.

1995. I am a young student in a research agency helping my boss get a new study published in the media. I prepared a press release with key findings and I am pushing it in the fax machine. We only have one computer in the agency that connects to the internet. 21 years later this seems hilarious as we have computers in our pockets. Our smartphones enable us to get the information we need at any time, very quickly and we as users and customers want to get to information fast, which means that organizations must adjust as well. Data, analytics, SEO (search engine optimization) and creation of relevant, consistent, valuable content is part of our everyday work.

Public relations have changed a lot in the last years. I started my agency in 2001 as a digital PR agency. In 2016 we cannot imagine not using digital tools for communication. Take press release – a traditional tool for spreading the news. It has digitalized and evolved into social media press release that goes beyond text and contact information – it might include video, audio, hi-res photos, tweets, links and share buttons for social media. The second use of the social media press release is also its set up to be discovered online and the possible improvement of your search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is another element we didn’t need to worry about 20+ years ago. Now a PR professional thinks also about optimization, such as the length of the press release title, checking for the right keywords in Google Trends and making sure the numbers of keywords in the body text are right for the search engines.

Media relations changed
Social media immensely changed the way we communicate, not just to external audiences but also to internal. One of the biggest changes is how they made communications more instantaneous by encouraging organizations to respond much faster, especially in crisis situations. Real-time communications and responding to relevant events on social media often gets a lot of media attention. For companies to be able to react fast means planning social media teams and monitoring the flow of online conversations.

In the recent years PR people have expanded their media relations also to

bloggers and other digital influencers. We look for the ones relevant to our product or service, read their posts to get to know them better and comment, but make sure it is something relevant, not just promotional info about our organization or a client. When we get to know them, we contact them via their preferred way and pitch them our story. We constantly monitor the blogosphere and update the list.

The technology game changers
Wearable technology that includes activity trackers, smartwatches, sport watches, rings, pendants and other connected devices is one of the biggest innovations in technology in the recent years. The incorporating electronics, sensors, software and connectivity enable exchange of data without human interactions.

They are good examples of the Internet of Things that already started to influence the way we live and work. As the digital workplace evolves PR people need to look for opportunities how to include wearables in internal communications. We need to start building understanding how they work and what are the organization’s plans to use it. Special emphasis needs to be placed around the privacy issues so the employees are comfortable with the new digital tools.

Members of the public have been moved by startling images from Aleppo © Amnesty International

Members of the public have been moved by startling images from Aleppo © Amnesty International

Enter Virtual Reality
VR enables viewers to see 360-degree videos displayed on the handsets or inexpensive cardboard devices, but also online with a less immersive experience. There is a huge potential in creating stronger emotional connections with stakeholders. And 2016 is supposed to be the year for VR – everybody is talking about it and companies are experimenting with it as a storytelling platform.

Amnesty International used VR for fundraising by showing the videos of war-torn Aleppo in Syria on the London streets. They report a strong and often emotional response from the public and a 16% increase in people signing up to direct debit donations toward Amnesty’s human rights work.

Digital PR agencies or just PR agencies
In 2016 we cannot really speak anymore about PR agencies and digital PR agencies as every agency should be digital and understand digital comms really well to be able to produce great results. So, why do some of us still mention that we work at a digital PR agency? Because understanding digital and implementing it in our business and communication is still not taken for granted.

 

jasna-suhadolc-virtuapr

Jasna Suhadolc

About Jasna Suhadolc

Jasna is owner at communications agency Virtua PR and an experienced digital communications professional. She works with Slovenian and international clients and provides consulting, training and speaking. She is a specialist in digital PR, social media, internal communications, corporate communications, content marketing, and more. Jasna is also an author of the book New opportunities in e-communication (in Slovenian) and a frequent speaker at conferences.
Follow Jasna on Twitter: @jasna