Futureproofing Public Relations

Is it possible to predict future with accuracy? If yes, then we all would have mapped  coronavirus disruption as part of our business plan in 2019. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the  case. If we don’t know the future, then future proofing seems like an out of syllabus question. 

Will robots and artificial intelligence take away most of the PR jobs? Will print medium loose  its sheen? Just like Elon Musk, will there be more CXOs who decide to handle communications  on their own, making the in-house PR team redundant? Though the intent is not to sound  pessimistic. There are endless possibilities. 

The public relations landscape is transforming at a fast pace. Two decades ago, when I  graduated from a prestigious mass communication institute, we were not taught social media  as these platforms did not exist in those days. Now of course, it’s an essential part of  professional as well as personal life. I am highlighting this aspect from a perspective that  course correction needs to take place actively in the education curriculum of institutes. 

When we were just about getting a grip of digital marketing, social media marketing and  content marketing as part of our job portfolio, gradually one is witnessing a new trend – Sustainability or ESG becoming a part of the communications role. As professionals, we will  need to continuously reinvent ourselves. 

We are living a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world wherein restructuring of organisations or teams will be a recurring process. Specialists in change management communication having in-depth knowledge of cultural sensitivity will be critical in garnering support for organisational change and creating a clear sense of purpose and  belonging for all the stakeholders.  

Our ecosystem will also need to evolve to be more agile with integrated marketing firms  supporting communications professional in media monitoring in a dynamic manner. Be it timely  tracking a TiKToK video created by an influencer which is positively or negatively impacting  the brand or actively listening to the conversation that is happening around across platforms  and making sense of it all to take appropriate measures. 

Greater collaboration is expected to emerge with customised CRM software for personalised  communication with various customers. This will not only mean targeted communication, but  it will also provide an effective mechanism to understand, change and evolve communication  strategies. The quantitative data generated will also act as a proof point whether the  communication strategy is working effectively and how much it is contributing to the success  of the business. We have come a long way from just calculating PR Value to prove that the  work we do is quantifiable and is adding value to the organisation.  

Given the changing media landscape, it is no easy feat for communications team of any size  to track or manage massive data/information that is pouring in. Moving forward, public  relations industry will be using more of big data to solve complexity of data. Big data will  become critical in developing an effective communications strategy as utilising data is  becoming increasingly important in PR because of its ability to improve campaign performance  and generate greater customer value. There will be greater use of predictive analytics to  customise story angles for journalists based on interests, past coverage, personalities, and  trends and predicting the probability of a journalist covering your story. Machine learning would  make labour intensive work of tracking coverage automated. Hence freeing up time of  communications executive to do meaningful work. Advances in storage and analytics mean that businesses can capture, store, and assess many types of data, including anything from  photos, videos, sound recordings, written text, amongst others. 

Public relations is here to stay. No machine will be able to automate relationships we have  with our clients, media journalists, influencers, and colleagues. If we continue to think out of  the box and smartly use digital transformation in a scientific way to deliver ROI, we’re future  proofing public relations.

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

Prerna Arun
Prerna Arun is a seasoned communications and marketing professional with two decades of experience. She is currently working as GM- Branding & Communications at ReNew Power. Previously, she has worked with leading corporates like AkzoNobel India and Fortis and has also been a start-up founder. Prerna is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication.

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