Future proofing public relations

Public Relations is a field which evolves overnight. What makes sense today may not make sense tomorrow. 

However, as PR practitioners, we have the magical power of paving the path to the future of PR, to some extent. 

Most nations have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and it is not unknown that the pandemic has changed the behaviour of all sectors across the nations. One of the first industries to hit in a non-financial manner was the PR industry, as it was important to understand the changes in behaviour and thought processes of the people to ensure that what is perceived as PR was truly PR. This was, and continues to be, not an easy task but one that is crucial for the survival of the industry. 

Even prior to the pandemic, interestingly, most business sectors had not exactly understood the concept of PR and its importance. Post the pandemic and of course, in the future, unless and until the people understand the major role PR plays in their revival and survival, we would not succeed as PR practitioners.

On the other hand, I personally believe that more than ‘influencing’ the people to continue with the ways we recommend, we should be able to understand ‘why’ people have changed their ways. Empathy takes a top spot in the way PR is now perceived. People do not want brands to boast about their achievements or latest innovations, anymore. People want to hear how those innovations and achievements will support the people in the long run. Being well connected to the people, where it is felt the most, is the only way forward to survive in the PR arena.  

Technology plays a great role – in taking stories to the people, in understanding the evolving cultures and behaviour of people and most importantly, in keeping the PR industry alive. Today people are hooked on to devices for a minimum of 20 hours a day. Understanding this change of behaviour, as PR practitioners, we need to appear where the people are actually looking at. Digital platforms have enhanced further with VR and real time updates which are rapidly becoming ‘needs’ of people more than the ‘fancy IT stuff’ they were earlier known as. 

Given the business context where high emphasis is made on Diversity and Equality aspects together with ESG, it is important that we communicate same to the people as well. People would connect better with organizations that are responsible in every aspect. This shows people that the brands care, about people, the nation and the planet. 

Ethical PR is something that has come to the center stage since recently. Every word matters and every thought process matters. These would actually lead to a making or breaking of a brand. It is our responsibility as PR practitioners to consult and guide our clientele to ensure the PR activities are carried out in an ethical manner. 

Interestingly, today PR is not limited to press releases. It is ironic that once ‘PR’ was widely known as Press Releases and not Public Relations. Today, the business community together with the general public is moving away from this notion. While it was all about company news that was termed as PR a while ago, today it has become a mode of expressing much more than news and have now moved on to include newsletters, social media, influencer campaigns in the ‘PR’ angles. 

Futureproofing Public Relations entails understanding all the above and much more – simply because, PR itself evolves overnight, as mentioned earlier as well. For the future to be secured, understanding and adaption is crucial, today. 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Shehara Alahakoon
PUBLIC RELATIONS AT PR WIRE SRI LANKA. Shehara counts for over 9 years of experience in the Public Relations and Corporate Communications field. She is a graduate of the University College of Dublin and has previously worked at John Keells Holdings PLC and Hayleys Group.

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