PR is Dead! Long Live PR!
A collection of thoughts from the Industry, this National PR Day, as we look to check on doomsayers and look ahead with optimism!
It feels like strange times, doesn’t it? The PR Industry has survived more than a year of the unprecedented global crisis. Yet, we are also seeing a word where PR is having to change its very definition to survive…is it a slow death, or evolution? In this year, there have been many learnings, many setbacks, and much evolution for the PR industry itself. As we manage remote working, shaky economies, worried brands, and a shrinking media universe, what is the way forward for the PR industry? Is it our time to evolve? To shine? Or to level up? PRPOI checked in with some of the prominent voices of the industry on National PR Day to understand what is actually going on.
In the words of Jaideep Shergill, Founding Partner at Pitchfork Partners Strategic Consulting LLP, “The public relations (PR) industry has transformed fundamentally. It will have to build capabilities around content marketing, community building, and customised digital storytelling faster.
With the rise of new media, brands need to communicate 24×7. The data and insights from rigorous digital monitoring have real business value; they are rich in learnings about the audience’s mindset and where offerings are falling short. This constant listening will help agencies guide clients better through crises.”
Digital, it seems will lead the industry as metrics and performance changes, agrees, Bhaskar Majumdar, Head – Corporate Affairs, Brand, CSR & Digital @ Egis India saying, “Digital transformation was always on the cards but #Covid19 has accelerated the process and adoption of #digital was and is now, faster than ever expected. Well, that doesn’t mean traditional media will lose its relevance. #Digital & #traditionalMedia will have a healthy mix depending on brand, services, products & on the campaign focus. The focus in a post #Covid era will be more on #digital #socialoutreach because of multiple reasons including real-time outreach, wider impact, engagement, immersiveness and to ensure visibility at the right forums. The #NewNormal will be #WFH or #remoteworking or a mix of all with its inherent advantages and disadvantages and we will see lines blurring between advertising, Public Relations, events, marketing, and digital. Starting from #virtual #pressconferences to #virtualevents to #skype or #zoom interactions to creative video’s in #socialmedia platforms all communication will be going #virtual #digital. Going forward for Communication professionals, adaptation and understanding of #digitaloutreach #SocialMediaoutreach will be crucial for any campaign planning.”
Yes, evolution is happening and with it, the PR industry is also leveling up. As Tarunjeet Rattan, Founder – Nucleus PR & PRPOI points out, “The word ‘ evolution’ and ‘ innovation’ in PR are two of the most abused ones in the last decade. While there were always a few outliers who would challenge the status quo and struggle to bring about a change, the larger group was content calling the addition of a new medium as ‘evolution’ and ‘ innovation’. The much-touted evolution has truly come about in the last 12 months when the majority of the industry has been forced to evolve to survive. Even though it is in a state of flux at this point, this to me is the golden age of PR. The chaos can lead to growth in any direction. It is up to us to understand how to re-position ourselves at this point. At a time when we truly have a seat at the table and a strong voice in the industry we can choose to pivot in any direction. It will be interesting to see how the industry evolves in the next couple of years.”
A seat at the table is something even, Jaideep agrees upon, he adds, “Also, brands now have no choice but to stand for something larger than their business. So, the industry will need to craft messages better to drive human connections. In fact, the amplification of digital content consumption will only get more entrenched in a post-pandemic scenario. So, agencies that haven’t invested in SEO and SEM techniques, or content marketing and digital analytics, will find the going tough. Content – specifically customised content – will be the key. It will need to have value to the audience, which is why it needs to be customised at least to the different audience cohorts and it’ll have to be produced quickly to enable the building in of context. To enable this, the management of brands’ social media presence will shift to PR agencies which will need to handle a variety of content forms – from blogs to videos and GIFs to podcasts.”
The story-telling format is here to stay indeed, as per Pooja Trehan, Founder @PRestaurants; Co-Founder, PRPOI, “We need to build a Communication framework that is purpose-led and incorporates more than enough common sense. We thrive as storytellers and need to re-organise our narratives when reaching out across teams. It’s no more about comparing pre-covid or new world, top to bottom or inside-out – instead put together practices that are flexible and sustainable, for any future disconnect and never lose sight of the grassroots issues.”
It actually seems that the industry might appear, better and stronger post the pandemic, says Pawan Hora – Director & Co-Founder, WISHBOX STUDIO, “The industry might have faced a crunch due to the pandemic, but the crisis has not yet broken the sector’s spirit. The phase of disruption not only acted as a wake-up call for the Public Relations industry but catalysed its progress as more and more publications turned digital, providing a virtual room for businesses to flourish. Boosting creativity while we all brainstormed to explore different concepts and build a new normal, PR has only grown more by the day. Things might not be the way they were in the sector, but that is the whole point of evolution– to keep adapting to the circumstances for the survival of the fittest.
Backing the sector with optimum technology, PR is paving a whole new path of tech-savvy services and connecting clients to media via virtual meets and interactions. The industry is growing into an independent entity that is working relentlessly regardless of the crisis, giving significance to perseverance and efforts. Helping brands rebuild themselves through equity, PR is serving as an important tool for clients to make a comeback and strengthen their foundation in the market.
With remote communication gaining traction and most of the publications and media establishing a strong virtual presence– the clients require PR agencies to build their rapport all over again, thus bolstering the sector by offering it more business. The post-COVID era will help the PR industry to see an upward spiral of growth as well while the sector leads the way for others to follow.”
A strong example of this points out, Bhaskar Majumdar, is the, “Recent launch of VIVO, V20 Pro: the product was launched by technical guruji live in a virtual launch attended by traditional media, KOL/Influencers, youtubers and bloggers.”
Agrees Sonali Sokhal, Founder Intelliquo PR and Co-Founder, PRPOI, “PR has helped become the common voice and thread for brands in the past year to tell their story when the world literally came to a standstill. It remains, till yet, the most impactful way to tell a story, as it brings together credibility, a strong narrative for the brand, a long-term vision, and a multi-layered storytelling approach. What I think, will change in the coming years is the functionality of PR. It is now being used to measure so much more than visibility, from impact, business impact, sales, and share of voice for brands and entities. I think going forward it will become a critical function for any brand to make themselves heard above the clutter.”
Summing it up is a voice from the USA, another market where PR is a very strong tool for businesses, as David A. Ball, President, Ball Consulting Group, gives us an International Perspective, “ I believe that we can expect transformational business change moving out of the pandemic. The rapidly accelerating pace of change we have seen over the last decade will only intensify. PR practitioners must be ready for this change. The need for effective communication will increase, and the vehicles for that communication will change as well. I think we can expect the globalization trend to continue, as organizations continue to buy and sell services in the worldwide marketplace. Lagging supply chain issues, however, could continue to be a major challenge, and these issues can become a PR problem as goods often cannot be delivered to market on time.
In the U.S., the media landscape will continue to thin out and the remaining independently owned small newspapers or newspaper groups will be bought out by larger media entities. This will make placing news stories harder. On the flip side of the coin, however, writing and placing content will grow. Of course, the content may take all forms: op-eds, blog posts, and podcasts being just a few. We will see more journalists, I believe, working independently and publishing their own coverage through new channels like substack. So, in short, the medium may evolve, but the need for clear, effective communication that supports business goals will never go away. Much of our work is crisis communications, and social media and things like the self-posting of video have made that practice more challenging, but certainly no less in demand than it was before the overall change in the landscape described above. In fact, I believe the demand for crisis communications will be greater.”