Time for traditional PR to get a digital jab

At any busy railway station across the country, one would get to hear this very familiar announcement quite often…

“Kisi bhi laawaris vastu jaise tape recorder, transistor, thermos ityadi ko haath na lagayein…yeh bum ho sakta hai…turant apne nikattam railway suraksha karmachari se sampark karein.”

(Kindly do not touch any unattended object like tape recorder, transistor, thermos etc…it could be a bomb…immediately contact your nearest railway protection staff)

It’s a very simple announcement asking people to be careful and alert. But if you look at the wordings closely, you’ll notice that there’s a flaw, and more so because we are presently living in the 2020s. Who uses tape recorders and transistors nowadays? Even criminals have moved on to the latest gadgets. And just like ‘Laawaris’, tape recorders and transistors too belong to Amitabh’s ‘angry young man’ era. Someone most probably recorded these lines on a tape recorder in that era, and it has been playing ever since without any updation. The announcement definitely needs an upgrade (to smartphone, laptop etc) in order to connect with millennial travellers…simply because the ‘target audiences’ and the ‘times’ have evolved.

Target Audience is Key

In PR too, it’s important for any communication to be customised (both in terms of ‘messaging’ and ‘message delivery’) for the identified target audience. Several organisations, institutions and individuals continue to believe that if they are featured in a top English mainline and / or Business daily, they have reached out to everyone. And when few family members, friends and business associates call up to congratulate them on the coverage, they feel elated. But the two questions that remain to be answered are…

  • Has the coverage actually reached out to the individual’s or the organisation’s target audiences?
  • What about those who for some reason missed to read that day’s newspaper(s), but are important target audiences?

The answer lies in giving a Digital upgrade to Traditional PR, to strengthen and customise its reach to target audiences.

Incorporating Digital into Traditional

Till around a decade ago, people who lived away (different part of the city / different city / different state / different country) from each other could not socialise and connect much on account of the the limited options and occasions to have a social gathering. But today, people have lot of ‘material’ ranging from news to movies to promotional videos…and it’s all available at one’s fingertips. This actually enables people to proactively engage with each other, thanks to the availability and accessibility of internet and social media.

People nowadays don’t just share information but are also well-informed about what’s happening in each other’s lives thanks to social media’s vast reach. And on account of stiff and increasing competition, social media platforms are regularly revamping their strategies and features to cater to the growing needs of the new-age users in terms of what they want and how they like to consume information.

These platforms work in a way that enables individuals to consume what fuels their interests and aspirations on both the professional and personal fronts. And this is exactly how Traditional PR reaches them (the target audiences) digitally.

Amplification via Social Media

Though it may look like an obvious next step, but promoting a good media coverage across social media platforms is the easiest way to get the word out to the target audiences. In addition to sharing the coverage on the company’s handles on various platforms, the Marketing / Corporate Communications team could also let all employees of the organisation know that an article has been published. Many a time, employees are not even aware of the fact that their company and / or the company’s offerings have been featured in positive light in a leading publication. The employees may even be encouraged to share the coverage on their social networks.

Let’s take a hypothetical example here. An FMCG company launches a new product range, which secures a good review in a top publication. Lot of people would read it, and a lot (including target audiences) would miss it for whatsoever reasons. Instead of just leaving it to chance that people will see it, it’s imperative to get them to see it for sure. This could be done by promoting a quote from that product review on Facebook with a customised link that enables a prospective consumer to read the review and also purchase the product in one click. Similar campaigns could be run on other social media platforms. The quote could even be featured on the company website’s home page or the key landing page…this can lead to decent organic conversion.

Last Word

Initially there used to be just PR (Public Relations). Then came the concepts of Traditional PR and Digital PR. In the present times, and also going forward, it’s important to understand that Traditional PR and Digital PR are not two different things, but a combined process that delivers holistic PR. And who knows, ‘Digital’ could become the new ‘Traditional’ few years down the line.

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

Vijay Shekhar
Vice President at Concept Public Relations
With over 23 years of experience as a communications professional, Vijay has always been on the consultancy side of the table and has worked on a wide slate of accounts spanning across sectors. He holds a B. Com and an MBA (Human Resources) from the University of Pune.

Vijay likes to watch old Hindi classic films and listen to old Hindi film songs, and has an enviable collection of both of these. He enjoys reading autobiographies and biographies, and also short stories, his favourite authors being R. K. Narayan, Munshi Premchand, Leo Tolstoy and Guy de Maupassant. Vijay also has a hobby of collecting news clippings (from newspapers and magazines) of important events across the globe…events that can be truly classified as ‘Breaking News’ or ‘Front Page News’.

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