If Public Relations is about establishing a positive image and building a good reputation then it means the Public Relations practitioner will use processes and tools to drive engagement.
We already understand that PR is about been strategic and dynamic and the best practice of PR is being proactive.
You can’t establish mutual understanding without communication and traditional PR methods used communication platforms of the mass media to convey their message. They understood how to feed the mass media with the right message at the right time and it worked.
As much as we agree that public relations communication is a two way street where an organization sends its message and also acquire feedback yet the traditional communication channels of print, TV, and Radio has been limited in promoting that concept of dynamism with the quickness, urgency and virality we have experienced with the New Media and that brings us to today.
We are witnessing first-hand the evolution of an industry that has thrived for decades. This kind of evolution is not about the extinction of the PR industry like the extinction of dinosaurs over 65 million years ago. Rather, it’s the evolving of an industry to birth a new form of PR practice where thought processes happen at the speed of light and PR messaging and efforts are more accurately measured, analysed and tweaked for immediacy of purpose. This is all happening because of the innovation of technology and the introduction of new media platforms, techniques and strategies.
New media in this case can be described as the real time generation and on demand access to content anytime, anywhere on any digital device as well as interactive user feedback and creative participation.
Now imagine in these days breaking News are no longer just carried by the CNN’s and BBC’s of this world but on Twitter and other social media sites as experienced with the Boston Marathon Bomb blast suspect chase. The Boston police used social media to report every single detail of the chase as it was happening that as such the CNN live reporter took a peek into his phone, perusing his twitter stream and seeing the tweet immediately announced live on air that the police had succeeded in nabbing the suspect.
We also observed the “Oga at the top” saga in our own beautiful country Nigeria, which was fuelled by nothing more but social media.
But wait a second, if the internet of things, the connectivity of devices and the increasing use of smartphones and broadband networks is forging a new kind of relationship to exist between organizations and their target audience with emphasis on immediacy, urgency, virality and dynamism, two big questions to therefore ask is:
- Are Public Relations Practitioners equipped with this moment skills, knowledge and capacity to handle the change and the challenges they bring?
- How can Public Relations practitioners continually evolve themselves to remain relevant in this ever changing landscape?
The obvious answer to the first question is unfortunately a blatant No and the statistics speak for themselves.
It has been reported that only one out of ten Public Relations firms understand digital.
In Nigeria, the gap is even wider.
And the answer to the second question, addresses a serious lack of expertise development. Using old tricks to try and win in this new changing game of communication and crisis management and this is a great disadvantage to the PR practice because while you are thinking about writing a press release about the change in your industry, company or product, the News is already on the internet either positively or negatively.
The goal of this article is not to debase the influence of traditional communications channels or methods but rather to strengthen by encouraging PR practitioners to look into new media not as a past time gist specimen or a dinner table dialogue but a critical tool that can be used to harness the power of business and government.
The mind-set shift while using new media is not about shouting from the rooftop and hoping everyone below hears and respects you. But the idea that public relation is a Two Way Street can never be so true and even more so now.
With the traditional method, organizations can choose the type of information to feed consumers but with the new media, consumers search for information on their own and they get whatever is out there, either through other consumers on review sites and discussion forums or from competitors.
To succeed therefore with new media, the PR practitioner must understand the process and have the ability to use the tools for maximum results.
Process here involve customer attraction, customer engagement, customer nurturing, customer conversion and analysis.
Tools and platforms that come into play here starts with the company website or blog, social media sites, email marketing, landing pages, customer management system, web analytic, Search Engine Optimization, lead management, marketing automation, content management system and a few others.
With all said, think about traditional PR practice like a hammer whereby organizations push their messages to the relevant Publics. But with New Media it’s a magnet where organizations position themselves with helpful and useful content that attracts a following, builds engagement and drives brand loyalty and on the long run, establishing a positive image and good reputation cannot be far-fetched.