Sending pitches and press kits began as early as our entrance into the 21st century, and these practices, along with the latest phenomenon of contacting journalists over social media, have come to be a major part of "public relations."
But how do we truly define PR?
In 2011 the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) initiated a crowdsourcing campaign and public vote that produced the current definition: "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."
Although this definition is only two years old, Wendy Zaas, executive vice president at PR firm Rogers & Cowan, believes this is "antiquated in that it truly does not address the integration of marketing and social media as part of the discipline." PR, she says, should no longer stand alone, since "the communications world is now blended and demands the best of all three disciplines woven together with smart, impactful, and creative strategy."
What is also missing from PRSA’s definition is PR’s return on investment, which is a necessity dictated by all clients; measurements taking into account marketing goals and competitor strategies are now the standard.
Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media outlets have transformed the relationship between the members of the public and those communicating with them. The public relations process used to be singularly dimensional—"the filter down theory"—but the future of PR is now a conglomeration, primarily focused with facilitating an ongoing conversation while remaining on the forefront of innovations in the communication arena.
"There is no longer such a thing as ‘traditional media,’" says Tim Tessalone, USC’s sports information director. "With the 365/24/7 news cycle and with the wide variety of media (and social media) platforms now available to journalists and non-journalists, PR professionals need to remain not only vigilant, but must be proactive and progressive."
New terms, described below, have appeared in the public relations lexicon, and terms like content marketing and earned media are often used instead of the term public relations. Here’s what they really mean:
Prevalent among many forward-thinking companies, brand journalism is telling a story related to your brand’s expertise. This method is extremely valuable, as the audience is engaged and therefore interested to learn more about the brand.
PR campaigns are no longer simply judged by the sheer number of impressions, so multimedia utilization is vital. Visual media such as YouTube, Facebook, and Vine are considerably more relevant when defining success because PR professionals must position their clients to be buzzworthy or trending. Furthermore, every PR campaign must be supported by an appropriate sales and marketing strategy in order to be effective.
No longer is there just one technology or one business writer or editor for an outlet. Each category has been broken out into multiple subcategories—for example under business there are subdivisions for entrepreneurism, small business, international business, etc.—and it is imperative that public relations professionals reach out to these highly targeted niche influencers to effectively grow brand recognition.
Public relations is no longer simply about traditional media. Presently, it is built upon traditional media and encompasses digital PR strategies, mixed in with social engagement (social media, blogging, etc.), brand journalism, thought leadership, SEO strategies, and content strategies, to name a few. The future of PR sees increased opportunities for public relations professionals to disseminate their clients' message as PR is evolving and reinventing itself along with the social media age.
PR was always and will always be about content development and management, but in today’s multi-screen landscape, there exists innovative technologies to create and disseminate this content. Presently, along with emailing press materials to journalists—according to Muck Rack, 92% of journalists preferred to be pitched by email—you have the ability to tweet your press release to targeted influencers and comment on market trends in forums and blogs.
"PR is a way for executives to position themselves as authorities in their industries. Using a multi-platform approach, industry leaders can comment on trending news to keep themselves and their companies central to media conversations about their business," says Ola Danilina, CEO and founder of PMBC Group.
The scope of opportunities is increasing and PR professionals need to continue to adopt forward thinking and accept the innovators. Agencies still control the facts but they must collaborate with the like of influencers and bloggers, so they don’t face backlash.
At its core PR is still about great storytelling but the future of PR is about creating a shareable experience. Measuring only media coverage is a way of the past. PR professionals must now target to engage their clients’ audience and have them be a part of the news cycle.
—Jarone Ashkenazi is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and has led campaigns for tech, business, sports, and consumer accounts. Ashkenazi is an account manager at PMBC Group, a Los Angeles native, and sports enthusiast.