Adapt, Innovate, Repeat – PR in a constant state of flux in the pandemic era

It was on April 21, 1986 that the public relations organisations in India got together to celebrate the country’s first National Public Relations Day – a day dedicated to the rapidly growing sector. On that day, the first All India Public Relations Conference was organised in Delhi. Looking back at these 35 years, the PR industry has evolved tremendously. Gone are the days when Public Relations as an industry and profession was struggling in terms of respectability and clarity in India.

Very few people know that the World Public Relations Congress was hosted in Mumbai in 1982, where we had the father of Public Relations, Sam Black, addressing the convention. So, some early seeds were sown here to recognise the industry and encourage the aspiring professionals to build PR as a robust industry. PR today has evolved and the industry is trying to adapt to the rapid changes that are taking place, especially in the pandemic era, where the role of social media and digital has made deep inroads even as the business is growing and becoming more competitive.

Beyond press releases and media relations

While the industry has tried to move beyond media relations and press releases, but it will take some time to eliminate that from the DNA of a PR professional. But in the recent years with the arrival of social media and the use of digital and embracing new technology has certainly brought in some shift to the industry. The PR industry has undergone a massive transformation over the last 10-15 years. The importance of media relations has come down as digital is surging ahead and becoming more popular. PR practitioners today haveto be agile, smart, sharp and adapt to new technology and media to engage with all their audiences, stakeholders and the end customer continuously.

Digital transforming PR

Today, technology has emerged in playing a larger role in the news room of agencies. Digital transformation has certainly increased the ambit of communications. Earlier, public relations was focused on the earned space. Today, we have a larger space to operate in, diversifying into paid, earned, owned and shared platforms. Embracing technology and use of analytics has comealive in the past one year where agencies are able to browse the internet intensely on what kind of content the users are consuming. This has helped agencies to cull out some interesting insights, which help the agencies to work on relevant news pegs for the client. The insights have helped in defining the client’s messaging requirements, which has further helped to pitch with exciting story ideas with the journalists. So, increasingly digital is becoming inescapableand agencies are on a war footing and are scaling their learnings on digital by imbibing the right training skills to cope with the fast-changing market environment.

Strong story ideas

With media dynamics changing rapidly, one needs to first decode the client’s brief, single out the objective so that there is clarity right at the beginning to arrive at the right strategy. Strong story ideas with innovation in your bag are what excite both the clients and the journalist team. Use of digital, social media and analytics has catapulted the PR professionals to think differently and quickly draw the attention of their audience. Your PR strategy should have compelling storylines which one need to construct and craft it and which in the end should convey effectively the core essence from your key messaging. If you can bring or add an emotional quotient here that can even strike the chord better with the audience you are engaging.

Look at impact and not clippings

Keep the number of clippings back of your mind. Look at the big picture like, have my key message delivered to the right audience and in the right media vehicle. This will help in painting the right picture of your brand and as a professional you would also know where the brand stands. Whether a PR campaign has made an impact is always a debate. Some of the smarter clients who understand the value of PR today, do not give much importance or weightage for the volume of clips as there is always no definite concurrence on the measurement metrics. So, right at the beginning of your engagement one has to set client expectationswith the client and work on a piece of document to measure the impact of a campaign so one does not waste hours discussing the impact post the release of the campaign.

To conclude, we have to live in the new normal as there are no signs of the pandemic moving out soon. New innovations in technology will rule the PR and Communication business. Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning will rule the future so we need to be geared and prepared to accept all automation in all our processes that we keep innovating. We need to be proactive and responsive to our clients as the influencer and media fraternity will play a key role in shaping a positive opinion of your brand and to further strengthen and protect the equity of the brand.

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