In recent years the PR industry has been facing some headwinds. Challenging trading conditions have seen budgets slashed. Marketing and digital agencies have gone after a bigger share of the corporate wallet, deriding PR as mere publicity. We also struggle with our bad public image, ironically, considering that we pride ourselves as masters of reputation management. But out of this quagmire, a new, stronger PR profession has emerged. The new breed of PR pros are tech-savvy all-rounders who work in a greater variety of roles than ever – the Swiss knives of marketing communications. According to the latest US statistics, PR people outnumber journalists by more than 5:1, testament to the profession seeing anything but a bright future in contrast to journalism. But these figures only tell half the story. As Christopher Penn cautions many journalists can be found in new job categories such as ‘writer’, as current and former freelancers and journalists push into corporate publishing and content marketing. So what are the traits that distinguish the new PR from the old?
1. New skill sets
Gone are the days when PR pros were exclusively focused on pumping out press releases. The rise of the internet and social media has been a complete game changer. PR people have upskilled themselves in a variety of new techniques and abilities, many quite technical. Think social media monitoring and management, graphic design, videography and editing, infographics and others. Even PR measurement has finally become more data driven. At the same time, public relations recruits have a more solid background knowledge of public relations methodology from university courses, and as digital natives a natural affinity to technology.
2. We get content marketing
Long before content marketing became the new buzzword, PRs have routinely churned out copy for both media purposes and marketing campaigns. Take for example case studies, news releases and blogs. That’s why PR people now get involved in digital strategy, for example when businesses are building new websites
or social media channels. Strong writing skills are just part of the PR package. But we also understand how PR fits into the bigger picture, and how to leverage the synergies with other marketing disciplines for demand generation.
3. Holistic approach to communication strategy and messages
PR people are skilled in identifying target audiences and their respective wants and needs. When planning and executing a campaign, we consider not just journalists, but employees, partners, community, regulators and even competitors, and how the messages will be received. This goes against the current trend to create siloed campaigns, for example by outsourcing social media to one agency and event marketing to another. With so many channels to monitor and manage, PR people apply their holistic approach to create consistent brand experiences.
4. Story tellers of the corporate narrative
Inhouse PR and communication managers often have multi-faceted roles that also involve everything from employee communication to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Their role is to create and evolve the corporate narrative. This exemplifies the new breed of PR who seamlessly move between the traditional realms of media relations and new responsibilities as corporate publishers and story tellers central to an organisation’s growth and success.