6 tips for understanding PR in the digital age

- May 3, 2019 4 MIN READ

The phrase ‘PR is dead’ has been circulating for many years, and as someone in that profession it’s hard not to take offence. PR is not dead, it has simply evolved.

The role of PR agents today is worlds apart from the job we did 10 years ago. We are not only Publicists in the traditional sense, but content creators, SEO experts, social media strategists and experts on domain authority. Our job is still cemented in relationships, but with the 24/7 news cycle and direct communication to consumers through social media, we also need to be making key strategic decisions, brokering brand partnerships and fiercely protecting our clients.  

Gone are the days of a brilliantly worded press release full of clever puns, and here to stay is a 360-degree media landscape dominated by content and the never-ending chatter of social media. Yes, our output is somewhat intangible and measuring our ROI is an inexact science, but the value of PR is now more important than ever. Why is that so? Because back then our role was a one way street of sending out communications, and today, we get a response on whatever we put out there. For better or worse, consumers can now engage with brands directly and leave their opinions for all the world to see. This means we have to be clever, calculated and move faster than ever before.

To understand PR in the digital age, communication professionals and brands need to remember these key things:

The world is your PR oyster

Forget everything you’ve ever been taught about the media landscape and treat everything you see as a potential opportunity to create PR buzz. The landscape no longer consists of online, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, it is all around us – in our phones and on the sidewalk (yes on the sidewalk). A virtual high five must be thrown here to the team behind the promotion of ‘It’ movie who tied red balloons to sewer drains all around the city. This simple and cost effective stunt resulted in substantial media attention, with the film setting numerous box office records and grossing over $700 million worldwide. I once went out late at night and put fake parking fines (yellow envelopes) on cars that were actually discount vouchers for the store that I owned. At the time I didn’t realise that what I was doing was a PR stunt, but it caught the media’s attention, generated publicity and brand awareness that translated to sales. So get creative and treat the world as your PR oyster – a standard press release isn’t always the answer. 


Get visual

 In a world where our attention span is shorter than a goldfish, images and video are becoming more valuable than ever before. Sure, your media release might have a punchy headline, but chances are it will be your visuals that get the attention first. So make them count. Invest in hiring the right creative team to create brand assets that will undoubtedly speak louder than words. Please don’t dismiss quality brand assets as a ‘nice to have’ – in most cases they are the consumers (and the media’s) first impression, so make them count. 

 Content is King but context is Queen

If content is King, then context is Queen. Our attention spans are dwindling and we only have a few seconds to grab attention, so make sure the context is there. Without it, your intent loses its meaning and your content becomes meaningless. Context can often be the missing link in a great content strategy and contextual insights can become the cornerstone of any marketing and PR plan. Consumers have to understand importance or relevance immediately, otherwise, they move on quickly to the next headline.

More than just an outlet to quickly understand the message, context can be used to your advantage. Take Airasia’s billboard placed near airports with the simple phrase ‘Cheap enough to say, Phuket I’ll go’. Consumers quickly understood the message and got a remarkable insight into Airasia’s cheeky brand voice.  


Diversify your spend

The best way for me to describe this point is Myspace. Once, it was the most visited social media network site in the world and now it’s just a sad reminder of our awkward youth. Truth be told, you probably had forgotten about Myspace until just now. So don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Yes, Instagram might be working for you right now, but try to diversify your spend just in case it becomes another Myspace. Building your Instagram following is great, but what happens when people just stop using it? Get familiar with all the opportunities available, set about testing what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly, look out for what’s next. 

Understand the importance of SEO

Typically falling under a marketing professional’s job, many PR experts might not have given SEO a second thought. Yet PR and SEO frequently intersect and in Google’s eyes the more links a web page receives, the more important it can be. All PR professionals should be optimising the links in all of their earned media coverage and working together with marketing and SEO professionals to understand what they should be doing. 

Communication is key

As ironic as it might seem, PR professionals should always remember the basics. Our role is to be experts in communication, so follow that as the number one rule. Ensure all teams are effectively talking to each other to capitalise on every opportunity and are staying one step ahead. Communicating to consumers should also be paramount as we all know what can happen if they’re left in the dark. Technology has simply made our jobs a whole lot easier however if you’re not using what’s available, you’ll still be operating the way we did 10 years ago (and that’s about the time that Blockbuster faded away). 

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