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Adopting a digital first approach in PR: Vandana Sandhir

Authored by Vandana Sandhir, India Lead, PPR South Asia

Vandana has over 22 years of experience in communications and public relations. She is the India Lead at PPR South Asia - The Change Agency. Starting out as a zoology enthusiast to study human evolution, she continued her journey of understanding human behaviour with communications.

We are living in exciting times where information is flowing freely and there is an increasing need to align the public relations and marketing efforts with a digital first approach. The avenues to spread the desired message are multiplying at a fast pace and the scope for reputation management has grown beyond the traditional platforms such as a newspaper or a magazine. Who would have thought a few years back that Twitter would become the preferred platform for breaking news or organisations will have to grapple with the herculean task of fighting the fake news such as Ebola virus contaminating soft drinks peddled by Whatsapp groups?

The advent of the Internet and the abundance of data has changed the rules of the game. By the time a story reaches print, it is already out on various websites, blogs and Twitter handles giving a summary of the event with a link to an elaborate version of the same story.

So how does this impact the way public relations gets practiced? Doing more of the same or a slight tweak is not the answer … it needs a radical shift in our thinking, going beyond the tool or the channel of communication, to ask ourselves – “what will make a difference to our audience”; “what will make our audience take notice” or better still – “what will make them care”.  

Integration – name of the game

There is a growing hunger amongst readers to consume news and information from multiple sources to get different perspectives and then form an opinion. For public relations professionals, it is a goldmine as we now have multiple platforms to help spread the right message within a short span of time.

Does that undermine the importance of print media? I would say otherwise– in fact, technology has helped print media evolve with time. A good story still has the potential to get featured in next day’s edition with additional inputs. There is plenty of scope for innovation as well – many stories come with interesting infographics and rich insights from a range of stakeholders, making it a thought provoking read.

Traditional media platforms are leveraging their space with research-based insightful articles that cater to a sharply defined set of readers, who seek detailed perspectives. On the other side of the spectrum are consumers who seek information in their language – told simply and clearly.

Content will continue to move the cheese

Platforms may change with time, but in the communications industry, the importance of content will remain undisputed. Its delivery mechanism may evolve with time, but it will remain critical in defining the reputation of an organisation. A good story, packaged well to suit multiple audiences, will still make its mark. All efforts of curating a great story will come to a naught if it is not suited to different media especially the digital medium.

The mantra is – follow the basics with smart tactics

A typical target media list has increased manifold over the last few years with a new set of influencers such as bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers, You-tubers and Twitterati getting on the list. The key is to engage with each in a relevant and meaningful manner that resonates with ‘their’ followers.  

Digital & social media allows us to tell a story rapidly & effectively to a much wider audience while traditional format provides deeper perspectives and still shapes public opinion. The key for public relations professionals is to remain open to new ideas, be proactive and create multi-platform engagement models.

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