Public Relations, informally born around 1915, has come a long way from beeping fax machines and buzzing phones. With the rise of 24*7 news channels and the incredible burst of social media, staying relevant became more complicated, nuanced and challenging. It was time for public relations to quickly transform itself to our fast-changing world. And it did.
Public Relations today goes far, far beyond event-based communication or crisis management. It’s a consistent conscious effort to carefully handle brand reputation in an era where it takes a lot to stand out amidst the noise. In my experience of over 15 years, I have seen brands move from simple press kits to holograms, and I also know that we’re still seeing just the tip of the iceberg.
Moving ahead, PR is going to be even more all-encompassing and the lines will blur to eventually fade. Moreover, with digitalisation; brands are today looking at a more Global rather than local approach. Here are some trends that I think will keep changing the face of PR as we know it, and we have no choice but to keep up!
- Data and Analytics: Data and numbers mean little unless they’re seen from the prism of analytics. From understanding your precise target audience (it’s not enough to say ‘Urban Male between 25-35’ anymore) and customising communication for them to measuring performance and understanding precisely in which moment of your campaign derailed, all answers are in the data. Journalists are always looking for stories that have its claims supported in numbers.
- Increased focus on Digital Media alongside Print mediums: With the emergence of social media, often, influencer tie-ups seem more viable than newspaper ads and blogger reviews bring in more mileage and reach rather than traditional mediums. With social media’s audience evolving, this facet is ever changing too. Influencer campaigns are also crucial to engagement between the brand and its target audience and to do it in the most fun, engaging manner. Choosing the right person to execute the right campaign is as rewarding as it is challenging. However, despite digital emergence; Print still remains a core driver for a lot of businesses in India. A launch in a tier 2 city still calls for massive print coverage vis-à-vis digital! Our country is so large & diverse, that besides urban India, print focus still prevails across many other cities.
- Brand’s Profitability Matters – to Everyone: Gone are the days of high valuation with no profitability. A brand’s lucrativeness matters to its eventual image, because people want to know that the name they’re investing in, will survive. It’s time for the entire ecosystem to realise this and create a healthy environment where brands can be trusted to stay around to fulfil their promises. Good PR works always feeds off good brands.
- Speaker Visibility: Having key people to front the brand is very crucial not just for brand building but also cultivating trust with the customers. Getting speakers to participate in respected forums and according them an opportunity to share their experience greatly enhances brand value because the world gets to see the people who’re driving the organisations.
- Curating Digital First content: With the burst in preference of digital over other mediums by millennial & Gen Z alike, it will become more and more important to conduct ‘digital first’ campaigns. This entails having specific digital communications, designed only for the brand’s online audience. Very soon, and it’s already happening, brands will move to having only digital campaigns, completely letting go of traditional media.
- CSR: Giving back to society never goes out of fashion. It’s an important part of the fabric of an organisation, and very vital for image building too. Customers like to patronise brands that are aware of their environment and do all that’s in their capacity to make the world a better place. How a brand communicates this to its community without sounding patronising, is key.
- ROI Driven Approach and Quantifiable Targets: With more tools available to measure results and companies getting more conscious of putting their money where they get worth, PR will have to get more mindful of which seeds to sow. The long rope for non-quantifiable tools is already getting shorter.
- The Importance of Storytelling: As much as we’d move away from traditional PR tools, this isn’t going anywhere. Classic good storytelling is the surest way for brands to connect with their audience. Short films, web films, brand videos, creative media pitch notes and a whole lot of other options can be leveraged. It humanises the brand and helps reach your target group in a clutter-breaking, honest manner.
PR remains ever evolving. The rules are being constantly rewritten, the advancement has picked up pace and the challenges and conveniences have never been bigger. But one thing is clear – going forward, nothing will be more rewarding in PR than honesty in communication. People can see through everything they’re told. Sticking to basics and connecting with goodness are never going out of fashion.