With the ever-increasing importance of digital media for public relations and marketing communications professionals, a new set of knowledge and skills has arisen if you want to future proof your career.
A few short years ago, these were ‘nice-to-haves’. Traditional media was chugging along and the old rules still kind of applied. But in 2017 it’s clear that the vast majority of daily newspapers are likely to be dead within three to four years. In addition, people don’t spend much time with the online press, and online behaviour overall has changed.
So this knowledge is now a ‘must-have’. A deal breaker, if you like. The amount of time you, or your company, can wing it is limited. You’re already on The Green Mile.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at seven areas that you have no choice but to upskill in and should invest your time, effort and training budget in if you want a future in PR and communications.
In the good old days, consumer journeys were more or less linear. Marketing exposure, and therefore media touch points, could be planned along the Awareness > Research > Consideration > Purchase route. Nowadays? Not so much.
The consumer journey is no longer linear. People can and do jump around from Facebook to news media to Google to mobile to websites to blogs to YouTube to product reviews to Instagram and back again before making a purchase. We can no longer control where and when people are exposed to marketing messages.
This makes understanding the digital universe crucial. It makes planning campaigns that touch consumers in different forms of media at different times imperative. And to do that you need to wrap your head around the how people behave online.
The True Nature of Influence
Influence has nothing to do with how many fans or followers a person has. It is not about how many views they can obtain on a YouTube video or how many likes their Instagram posts get. These are measures of popularity. Celebrities are popular, but that doesn’t necessarily make them influential.
Influence is about an individual’s capacity to affect change. Change in opinion or attitude or behaviour. At their best (from a brand perspective), influencers encourage sales through recommendation. Understanding this is vital. Acting upon that knowledge even more so.
I may have mentioned SEO once or twice or a gazillion times on this blog over the last few years. Like this and this and this. That should give you a clue as to the importance of getting to grips with Google.
PR is perfectly placed to impact search results. In fact, you do it every time you get something placed online whether or not you’re aware of it. So does it not make sense to ensure you understand the true impact of your work and to start to leverage and measure that?
Make no mistake about it, SEO companies are hiring PR people to help them with offsite optimisation and link building. You can either wait for them to start winning PR briefs or you can learn about search.
The Potential of AI and AR
Chatbots, in-home smart devices, robot-written news articles, automated customer service, voice-controlled internet devices, Pokémon GO…after many years in the shadows, artificial intelligence and augmented reality have now come to the fore. So what do you know about them?
In the next few years AI and AR will revolutionise the communications industry. They’re already making waves in sectors like banking and healthcare, and it won’t be long before they touch yours. Machines are starting to make choices for us, and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that the technological singularity (when computers will surpass human-level intelligence) will occur around 2029, some 15 years earlier than previous estimates.
All of which means you’d better start getting to grips with their potential for communications now or get left behind!
The Integration of Paid and Owned Media with Earned and Shared
At the very heart of digital communications strategy are the four media types explained in the PESO model. PR has always played in the earned media space, and generally speaking, understands the importance of shared media too.
But when it comes to owned media (or content marketing) and especially paid media, PR typically lags behind. Sometimes elements of these will be retro-fitted into a campaign, but rarely are they planned in from the start.
It is vital that the communications industry starts to plan digital campaigns strategically, and this can only be done by understanding how all forms of media intersect with one another.
The Structure of Measurement Frameworks
Evaluation has been on the public relations agenda for years. But despite the constant drive of industry leaders and organisations like AMEC, all we seem to have witnessed is the slow decline of AVE as a valid measure. Mention return on investment in a meeting with public relations consultants and you’ll see a lot of mumbling and nervous shifting in seats.
But with technological and digital evolution comes data. And data is something that can be measured. Building frameworks that cover not only marketing measures but also business measures is something that you’re going to need to be doing very soon if you want a job in PR.
How Online Crises Spread
Reputation management is a big part of public relations work. And most PR people will understand how to deal with issues in traditional media. But when it comes to the digital environment, things are very, very different.
From the timescales involved to the way in which news jumps from one social network to another to the spread of rumours, the internet is nothing like traditional media. Crises spread across social and digital media in super fast time, and it takes a cool and knowledgeable head to understand when and how to intervene, and just as importantly, when and how not to.
The rise of fake news and ‘alternative facts’ mean that online crisis management is something that every public relations person needs to obtain a thorough understanding of in the very near future.
I’m covering all of these areas and more with the help of seven special guests, including Gini Dietrich, Stella Bayles and Emily Leary, at Digital Download London on 27th April. The day is comprised of eight sessions: three conference style presentations; three open Q&A discussions; one social media crisis simulation workshop; and one set of creativity lightning talks.
It promises to be an extremely interesting & information-rich day based around the concept of collaborative learning. You can find more information and book tickets here, but be warned: spaces are limited and going fast.