“PR is persuasion” someone once said. “Persuasion” is a dangerous word in marketing; people don’t want to think of themselves as being persuaded into anything. The Public Relations Society of America has a definition of PR that, although more complex, is much better:
“Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
There you go! “Communication” is a much better word in marketing, and quite telling in the social media age of today. But what’s your take on PR? Do you think of hidden agendas and malicious scheming? Do old episodes of Spin City pop up in your head? This is probably because you, as a lot of people, have a more traditional view (or experience) of PR.
Public Relations is adapting to the new Web. Nowadays, companies aren’t the masters of their own information; consumers are well informed, they know that they have choices and they share information amongst themselves. This alone can create a huge public counter pole, capable of standing up against the biggest of organizations. When information is expected to be only a click away, those who do not offer that information aren’t even considered. Customers can, and will, move on.
Organizations are now being forced into providing total transparency. In an age when everyone is a potential publisher, hiding something will soon raise suspicion. Now this isn’t the end of PR, far from it. Social media has created huge opportunities for those who are prepared to work for it. Quality content deserves to be shared; the holy grail of going viral can make an organization (or individual) into a star overnight. This is where the role of PR comes into it.
Its purpose is not all focused towards JUST media relations, public events and spinning – with social media, PR experts can have the public doing most of the work for them; through creating a portal that pushes out user generated content (which could sincerely be the best thing since sliced bread).
So what about the PR people? After creating that viral snowball, what do they do? This is where it gets interesting; this is where we find the true change in PR. Far from all organizations have social media policies, and every now and then it shows. Social media is time consuming and hard to understand for some – this is why the men and women of PR still have a very important role to play. When everyone can be a media outlet, there is a need for skilled professionals who can coach, educate and encourage – create co-workers who can guide that snowball down the right track, use the digital tools at their disposal to empower and improve other marketing efforts. This is achieved simply by emphasising an edge, a differentiator, a word, an image or even a sound – and making it meaningful and unique so that it will grab people’s attention in the batter of an eyelid. This is where the role of PR is now being moulded around and how its functionality underneath the marketing umbrella has adapted to the digital environment we live in.
Education is key. In a society where the ‘sharing of information’ equals money, we need people with the skills and experience to handle it properly – as a way to build mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
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Image courtesy: blog.commbank.com.au, mashable.com