Public Relations in the Digital Age – It’s Not What it Used to Be

One of the first things that every newbie hears when they enter the world of public relations is that “advertising is what you pay for, PR is what you pray for”. So, first of all, let’s completely bust that myth. In today’s digital world, praying for your public relations to be just the way you want it, or even worse – handling PR as a response to events – is definitely not the road to success.

PR has always been about controlling your image in the eyes of your potential clients, via media coverage and mass-audience publications. Well, the internet has changed how things work. The potential crowd for your message is a whole lot larger, but so is the competition. In other words: You now have a megaphone you can holler with, but so do a whole lot of other people.

PR then and now

Continuing with our megaphone metaphor, among all those megaphone owners trying to scream out their message, you need to know exactly when and where you should do it, in order to be heard. If, in the past, you’d aim at getting your word out to as many media outlets as possible with the hope of it catching as many hooks as it can, today you need to be focused on the right outlets and platforms, as well as the right timing for your marketing, and it’s not as simple as it sounds.

On the other hand, the digital age presents new opportunities for doing PR in a different way: less emphasis on relations and communications with journalists and editors, more knowledge on how to ‘aim and shoot’ your message through the right vortexes in order for it to be spread out.

So, what do I need to know?

Which number to (digitally) dial

Whether we like it or not, the mainstream and traditional media still have a big impact on how things are seen on the World Wide Web. Think of it: When you Google something, a brief look at what popular news channels have reported regarding your keywords appears somewhere on top.

This means that, just like in the old world, you still need your phone book around, so you know who to reach out to with whatever type of message you carry. It also means that when you choose a digital PR agency to work with, you need to be sure that they also know how to work ‘old school’.

That’s not enough, though. The internet has more potential for absorbing information but a higher risk of the information disappearing quickly as new information is absorbed. A good PR agent will know how to make your word stick around when all other virtual messages just fly by.

With just a little help

Managed to get your message out to the masses? That’s good, but not enough. The big advantage (if you play your cards right) of the digital world is that you can also actively choose who sees your message, where that happens, when it is delivered and so on. That’s right, targeting plays a big role here.

If there’s one thing that’s common to digital PR and digital advertising, it is knowing how to properly execute non-organic campaigning for the right exposure. In other words, you need to know how to pay as little as possible to get your word out to as big an audience as possible – but only to an audience relevant to you and your goal. Your digital PR firm, hence, needs to be a campaigner above all – and a zesty one.

Shoot for the stars

Ah, press releases. Can’t live with them, can’t scrap them because you really need your word out. Well, doing press releases doesn’t have to be such a burden. It’s hard to get the attention of the press, we know, especially when the characteristics of the medium (internet) means that reporters and journalists are swamped with information all the time.

How about adjusting the message to the medium, then? Remember what Marshall McLuhan said about the medium being the message all the way back in the ‘50s? Well, apparently it’s as relevant as ever today. A real digital PR pro knows just how to get your word on pen and paper (or, shall we say, on Google Sheet and Office Word) and how to spread it out quickly in a virtual world where words travel at the speed of light.

Ever unfolding, ever expanding

old 4918914 1920 1024x682 - Public Relations in the Digital Age - It’s Not What it Used to Be

We’ve saved the most important factor for last: What is true about digital PR today can be complete nonsense tomorrow (metaphorically speaking, of course). The world of digital PR, as well as the tricks of the trade, are changing all of the time in accordance with technological developments and how the big players (such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft) set the rules. That’s why it is important to always be alert to vibes and trends.

Want an example? Here you go. Over the past few years, we see more and more searches on Google ending up with no clicks on any of the results displayed (hence the name ‘zero-click searches’). The reasons are less important right now, but you can read more about it here. It didn’t just happen at once, and only those who had seen it coming in time were able to adjust themselves and their modus operandi accordingly.

What should you do?

If you’re a brand, an organization, a company or even just a living and breathing human being trying to sell a product or service, you need someone to handle your PR the right way. It would be a mistake to assume that this is something that can just be allocated to someone within your organization. Only a true professional can get you the results you need and sail through the virtual tides of the World Wide Web.