The pervasive conclusion about the world of media is that it is dying a slow and unstoppable death.
The explosion of digital media, and by extension the proliferation of real-time information at virtually everybody’s fingertips, has diminished the value of news, and by extension vastly reduced what the public are willing to pay, if anything, for it.
Yet despite the doom and gloom, public relations as a practice is not only surviving, but thriving.
Indeed, despite shrinking newsrooms and generally fewer and more concentrated media outlets available that the public trusts, the world PR is actually growing.
At first blush this may seem counter-intuitive. How does a PR practitioner secure earned media for a client when there are fewer and fewer news organizations to approach? On closer scrutiny, though, it makes sense: Quite simply, PR is rapidly expanding into the more diverse and uncharted waters of social and digital media.
This growth of public relations has stemmed from the need to effectively communicate information about your brand, your products and relative viewpoints, as well as interact efficiently with your intended audiences.
That in turn has been almost entirely driven by the emergence of literally billions of personal “soap boxes” – the ability of anyone, at any time, to voice their opinion.
From the Industrial Revolution to Twitter
Many consider the establishment of the Publicity Bureau in 1900 during the industrial revolution to be the founding of the public relations profession. The emergence of cities and the working class and the desire for information led to a proliferation of newspapers, and in turn the emergence of PR as a profession, as companies and individuals alike sought ways to promote their brand and voice.
On that front, not much has changed. Public relations has continued to be a vital way for organizations to establish a connection and ongoing dialogue with their audience. This not only includes shaping and communicating their message, but also keeping that message relevant.
What has rapidly changed is the medium in which this is accomplished. While traditional media remain a vital component in terms of providing widespread and unbiased information to specific audiences, the proliferation of social media has created literally millions of new channels where information - both good and bad - is shared.
For businesses, this has created both opportunities and pitfalls. An entire generation now literally expects their news to come to them via their smartphones, which has created enormous opportunity to reach a wider audience - instantaneously.
At the same time, the immediacy of social media, and the democracy behind it that allows anyone to say anything they want about a person, company, brand or product, has created challenges that, without assistance and know-how can make or break a brand.
"Traditional" versus "Digital"
Of course, many see public relations as tied to traditional media, with little expertise in the worlds of FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat and the myriad of other digital platforms being used. Misunderstood, however, is that the objective of PR – helping brands engage effectively and regularly with their target audience - remains the same.
It's a proven fact that companies garner more attention - and make more sales - with consistent public relations and communications campaigns. Chances are that whatever industry you're in, you're going to have some competitors. So, you will need to find a way to stand out. How do you do that without smacking ads around town? Public relations.
This is not to say that public relations needs to be a separate entity, or compete with marketing or advertising your brand. It can - and should - be a part of your marketing strategy because, after all, they're working towards the same end goal – making more sales/money. Many companies incorporate public relations in their marketing budget to increase their media exposure and elicit publicity – in fact, this has become an integral part of many major marketing strategies.
This is why public relations continues to not only be effective, but necessary. No matter what industry or what sized company you might be, the harsh reality is that the world can see you - and comment on you - in an instant, whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not.
Hence why public relations remains as vital as ever in terms of helping companies and individuals interact with key audiences, promote brands and awareness, and, when necessary, respond to negative public perceptions.