Is PR in 2012 just about digital?

Public relations has been undergoing a transformation linked to a number of things that have been taking place in recent years. First, there has been the world financial crisis affecting companies and businesses struggling to deal with shrinking economies. This required organisations, including the Government, to review how they delivered information and communication to the public. It required a review of public relations and how it can be redesigned to exist in modern life.

But perhaps of more impact on public relations has been the rise and rise of the digital world and social networks. They have necessitated a complete review of communication plans, public relations activity and marketing. Around five years ago the only element of technology that had really had an impact on public relations work was the website. Every company, business and organisation had to have one, and it had to provide as much information as possible. Now with the growth of social networks and the expanding online world that gives us access to so much, and draws us together in communities of interest, the digital world is critical. It is so much more than a website.

The question I have been considering this week is just how much the digital world has impacted on traditional public relations? Is PR in 2012 now just about digital?

Public relations campaigns historically involved advertising, costly print runs and targeted events to spread the message. Previous governments were seen to spend large amounts of money on public relations and campaigns to promote new schemes or initiatives. Alongside all that work was the traditional media relations work to secure coverage for the initiative or new product in the media.

In 2012 we no longer have the money or resources to develop expensive campaigns and each week we see the traditional media shrinking as newspapers close or journalists are made redundant. The public sector is also reducing, and for those in communication roles there is no longer the funding for PR campaigns. But there is still information to be publicised and new products to be promoted. That is where the digital developments have stepped in to support communication professionals in their changing world.

The expansion in social networks and the developments in technology mean we can all access information in many ways, on the move and we can be selective about what we receive. Nearly all of us have access to a Smartphone, iPad, iPhone or mobile data. PR campaigns, some professionals have said, are now all about the digital and to separate the two elements is to restrict your creativity and innovation. For those who are embracing the changing world there are many opportunities that exist today.

Targeting and developing communities, is now something that can be more easily done online. You can create a buzz about a new product or service by some carefully developed digital campaign activity. And building connections across all your digital platforms will maximise the impact you can have. With dwindling, on non-existent, budgets is digital the only game in town for public relations?

I have to say from my current perspective I can see public relations in the coming years mainly being delivered using digital methods. There is no budget for advertising, no money to fund print runs of leaflets or posters, no cash for expensive campaign launches. All we have in the armory are the continued relationships with the media and the digital developments. So, PR in 2012 is about maximising the digital opportunities and continuing to work with the remaining media. To get the most for your communication PR and digital must be together.  But what do you think?

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