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Public Relations: How it’s changing in 2021

Authored by Bhaskar Majumdar, Head - Corporate Affairs, Brand, CSR & Digital, Egis India

Public relations, as an industry came into existence almost three decades ago, in India. In earlier days, it was more focused and based on journalism, because brands always wanted to get in the news.  Over the years, it evolved, it became a sophisticated approach to creating the right messaging to targeting the right audience in the best possible way.

Has the meaning of PR changed? Yes. The #digital transformation and emergence of #socialmedia has changed PR forever. Now, #communication outreach means a well thought out strategic outreach with crisp messaging and new age content, using digital, social, traditional outlets to promote a brand or service or launch a product, going along with advertising, marketing and more.

The median age in India was 26.8 years old in 2015, meaning half the population was older than that, half younger. India has the second largest population in the world, after China. Because of significant population growth over the past years, the age distribution remains skewed in favor of the younger age bracket. Taking this into account, most of the #communication outreach depending on the brand, services and products needed to adopt to platforms which are more popular among the younger population.

While traditionally public relations focused on editorial content, today it holds much more than the understanding of traditional media environment and media relations. It is now a combination of paid media (KOL, bloggers, influencers, youtubers etc), earned media (mostly traditional media – print and online), shared media (#socialmedia), and owned media (website, blogs, newsletters, etc.). While all these tools offer communication professionals a wide range of options in how they communicate their specific message, it has become more real time and engaging as target audience can be diverse and niche. Now, with micro blogging, it has become easier to reach out to a specific city, specific place and talk to a specific audience. 

The industry has gone through a radical shift with the availability of data, analytics, and wider reach of the internet and growth of smartphones. #COVID has also fast forwarded the pace of digital transformation.

While today’s communication professionals are more tech-savvy and trends-focused, the profession still concentrates on shaping the right messaging, creating the strategic narrative and identifying the right set of target audience. Today the line is blurring between traditional outreach, video production, event development, brand marketing, media planning/buying, as well as content creation and influencer strategies.

While this “blurring of the lines” makes it difficult for brands to adopt and understand the requirements, does that mean it has changed the meaning of public relations? No. Public relations broadly, is all about effective storytelling and creating the strategic narrative. The art of storytelling hasn’t changed and it will not change in the coming years. No matter what the communication tool is – digital outreach, social media outreach, influencer campaigns, advertorials or traditional media – this is not going to change. Communication professionals will always be required to craft the strategic narrative. 

A move into micro-market outreach. As digital tools become more and more sophisticated, firms now have the ability to geographically target micro markets for specific messages. This, increasingly, would become the norm.

With #digital and #social media the importance of content and #NewAgeContent has become critical. Earlier, the most widely used communication tool used to be #pressreleases now #tweets, #linkdin posts, facebook post/live, #blogs, youtube video’s, #insta posts/live are equally important tools to engage your #TG effectively. Each of these tools have its own limitations and importance and hence it becomes very important for new age content strategists to have sacrosanct messaging across all these outreach tools. Content needs to be relevant, authentic and easily adaptable to suit diverse messaging tools. Technology will continue to rule and dominate (even more than before) as the primary tool for PR practitioners. This also includes digital marketing automation tools. These tools create efficiency and effectiveness without having the practitioner sit at the desk to do it.

With burgeoning digitization in the COVID era, we are increasingly witnessing a surge in data usage to gauge ROI or to validate the success of a specific campaign. While data has always been powerful, now the availability of data shows what worked, what didn’t work and even what actions can be taken in the future. 

While, public relations have evolved drastically over the years and especially in the COVID era, this trend, too, will continue.  While the tools of communication and engagement may have changed, the underlying definition has not.  After all, it’s truly all about the story, as we say it!

 DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it. 


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