“Turn obstacles into opportunities and problems into possibilities “– Bennett
As technology is getting deeply embedded in the life of every individual and establishment, the way the PR business functions is also changing. While for other industries this is a regular technological upgrade, for Public Relations the spectrum is much wider. PR involves a great deal of emotional intelligence and personal touch, and therefore technology alone can’t do in PR, though it would be a major force to reckon with. This essentially means a PR professional would need to learn, unlearn and learn again to rise above the tide for the next few years till further clarity emerges.
Tipping point of digital communication has arrived
The tipping point of digital communication has already arrived and reshuffled the language of PR. There is a shift happening in the way the journalist, the consumer and even the way the public is looking at information about an establishment or corporation. Every survey of journalists and consumers in the recent years has revealed that almost all of them prefer Google, LinkedIn and such resources as their source of information about a company rather than calling up the company PR team or the firm handling them. While the primary reason for this may be convenience and main reason is the perception of credibility from such independent sources on the internet. This may not be true always because there are many unscrupulous sources peddling inaccurate information about almost anyone. But, it is a fact that people do prefer the internet more than calling up the company. Therefore, it pays to beef up your online presence on the digital platform and be omnipresent.
Emotional intelligence and personal touch are still important
Omnipresence on digital platforms doesn’t mean it should be digital all the way for the Public Relations business. Digital helps in providing information, but not the colour or tenor that traditional storytelling could do. Hence traditional PR is still very much alive and kicking. The only difference is that your journalist or consumer has more information about you even before s/he meets you. Hence physical meetings over coffee would mean more intense and meaningful conversations for which the PR professionals need enormous preparation.
During discussions with journalists, I have understood that most of them want additional or exclusive inputs from the PR expert and not what is already on the numerous digital platforms. However most will agree that detail-oriented and updated storytelling on digital platforms gives them enormous insight about the company or establishment and creates goodwill even before they face someone from the source. Some even find story ideas or brand persona from the digital profile itself. Firms without sufficient digital presence are losing immense recognition as their competitors ramp up their presence. The ones who have effectively used content marketing strategies have reaped the benefits.
Digital communication is not only effective in public forums but also gives a massive boost to the internal communication strategy. At IIFL we have seen effective employee engagement through digital forums like ‘Facebook at work’. The participation of leaders have increased significantly owing to the convenience. Similarly, employees have found better involvement and direction through these mediums.
The amphibian PR executive today
The dilemma here is how much of digital and how much of traditional? I have interacted with many proponents of the digital age and they have always pressed for going all digital and assuming that all external parties would accept the one way communication mode. I believe that is the wrong way to cultivate a brand’s reputation. You need the human side of storytelling alive for the finest outcomes. One way digital communication may sometimes result in no communication or miscommunication if doubts and perceptions are not cleared. There is nothing like a heart-to-heart talk or a personalised email or even a letter. Therefore, there is space for both digital and tradition PR to co-exist and be practiced together for best results for all parties involved.
To sum up, today a PR professional is going through a phase akin to the amphibian evolution in the animal kingdom. Like an amphibian’s ability to survive both inside water and on land, a PR professional today is balancing both traditional as well as digital platforms to unlock the countless opportunities for their clients and stakeholders.