Future of Public Relations: bright or doomed

Often termed as one of the fastest evolving industries, Public Relations is an amalgamation of Conventional PR, Advocacy PR and Social Media PR. In fact, the prominent Public Relations agencies in India are practising all the major functions of this domain to deliver the most effective and all-encompassing PR strategies for their clients.

Over the years, the role of traditional PR has got minimised and the big funds have been channelled towards advocacy while augmenting a robust emphasis on Social Media.

It’s common knowledge that the media business is proliferating rapidly and so is the Public Relations industry. Print mediums such as newspapers and magazines are fast losing their sheen as people are veering towards the online medium for news consumption. With the advent of Social Media, the functioning of mainstream media has undergone tremendous changes as well. Thanks to the availability of print content in the digital medium, the lines are consistently getting blurred.

Media experts are of the opinion that the new Social Media-driven landscape has impacted the functioning of the domain significantly. Nowadays, the role of publicists has transformed as they are responsible for maintaining a close association with media professionals such as reporters, channel producers and bloggers. In fact, many of the key Public Relations agencies in India are ensuring maximum content outreach to help clients attain business objectives.

With the PR industry undergoing considerable diversification, analysing the varied sections of PR, namely Conventional PR, Advocacy PR and Social Media PR assumes greater relevance before looking at the future prospects.

  • Traditional PR Traditional PR

One of the most used mediums to bolster Media Relations, focusses on researching, writing, pitching stories to media in print or on television.  Despite being the oldest form of PR, this is cost-efficient in its approach unlike advertising. While digital PR companies are widely popular compared to the print mediums, the fact is featuring in Forbes, CNN, the New York Times guarantees more eyeballs as compared to the Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.

With the passage of time, the demand for clients is going high, but their retention levels are declining fast. The digital Public Relations companies are hired on a contract basis and the monthly retainer model is slowly becoming a thing of the past. The newsroom staff is constantly shrinking, impacting the ability of the news agencies to carry out in-depth analysis. Journalists have to depend on the PR practitioners for story ideas. This is one of the reasons why traditional PR is preferred less nowadays.

  • Advocacy PR

This variant of Public Relations often witnesses teams of well-funded researchers and publicists flood the blogs, think tanks and comment sections of the online publications with relevant data. While traditional PR aims to tap a particular section of journalists, Advocacy PR blasts the same message on a larger scale.

Advocacy PR is used by all, ranging from businesses to environmentalists, politicians to celebrities. Despite being highly coveted in nature, Advocacy PR can’t be afforded by all. Considered as ‘high-end’, this form of PR is most often utilised by the big enterprises or industry groups with a strong budget allocation to implement comprehensive and expensive PR campaigns.

  • Social Media PR Social Media PR

It is true that Social Media has tremendous value. It works as an additional set of speakers that enhances the message outreach. This variant of PR follows the DIY model and low-cost resources to create awareness on Social Media platforms such as posting of news, photos on Instagram and creating Twitter-centric campaigns. Believe it or not, this inexpensive model is mostly utilised by the Fortune 100 enterprises in the technology sectors. After the advent of Social Media, varied educational institutions have cut down their PR budgets and successfully used mediums like blogs to grab likes and followers.

Many are of the belief that Social Media offers the best channels to broadcast news directly to the audiences along with using it in real time during times of emergencies. Various publicly-traded enterprises are using Social Media for undertaking consistent monitoring and sending out responses to the audiences.

Experts are of the opinion that the golden age of PR has kicked off for the digitally savvy, creative, content makers who are ready to embrace the changing patterns. Let us take a close look at the below-mentioned activity areas that can re-define the future of Public Relations in the coming years.

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Earning credible backlinks from innumerable trustworthy sources is considered as a powerful signal to the most trusted search engines such as Google. Yes, quality content can be helpful in building backlinks, but audiences also prefer to ally with your business due to their faith in you. The question which arises now is who will be responsible for building those relationships that will boost link-building? A marketing officer or an SEO expert? Since SEO aims to fructify relationships, it should be placed under the PR domain.

  • Influence marketing

Over the years, influence marketing has been found to be a struggling concept in the world of advertising. While campaigns lie at the core of ad agencies, influence marketing is driven by mainstream marketing.

Since influence marketing is not related to sales, it deserves a place in the PR domain. The job of PR is to develop healthy working relationships with the press, community and the other relevant stakeholders. Hence, the growing discipline of influence marketing is the best fit for PR.

  • Content disbursement

Efficient content distribution can fulfil marketing requirements. Currently, good content is just the starting line. It is crucial to optimise investment in content and decide the channels where it could be disbursed for achieving the best results. In simple words, this would include pitching press releases to the media. Developing content disbursement strategies should come naturally to PR professionals.

Until a few years ago, none of these activities were prioritised in Public Relations but now they can’t be avoided as these activities bring measurable value to a business.

Can PR evolve and embrace these new activities at the earliest? Although the ‘wait-and-watch’ policy is the best way to analyse the situation, the smartest professionals are expected to leave no stone unturned in making the most of the latest opportunities. So, my prediction is that the future belongs to the skilled digital Public Relations agencies that can make the best use of the relevant tools available to them.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also Read: Why PR agencies should embrace visual media 

4 Comments

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    June 8, 2017 Reply

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    September 15, 2017 Reply

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    December 8, 2017 Reply

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