For the last few years the PR industry has been embroiled in a seemingly interminable argument with other marketing disciplines over who ‘owns’ social media. But debates over ownership are not helpful - the industry should refocus its attentions on what good PR brings to the party.
Whilst the media landscape is irrevocably changing, big ideas and great content still dominate. Mass interaction, especially via twitter, is based on and fueled by, the sharing of useful and compelling content. And quality content is, of course, the basis of good PR.
At the same time the increase in the volume of information vying for our attention and the burden this places on individuals, is fueling the need for bite-size, and increasingly, non-text based content. People simply can't cope with the sea of business, career and life-critical information they need to digest, so communicators need to make it easy for them.
But, while ideas are still making the world go round, PR needs to catch-up with the new (and newly accessible) tools and formats for bringing their clients’ ideas to life and making them easily digestible and shareable with the widest possible audience.
This clearly presents a huge opportunity for PR to create rich content in the form of videos, images, infographics and audio that help convey client ideas easily and rapidly. By doing so they can increase the opportunities to engage audiences, both by working with the media in new ways, and by encouraging content sharing through blogging and social media.
It's easy for B2B brands to feel left behind with such comms innovations, but this trend actually holds more promise for engaging B2B decision-makers than consumers. The often dry approach taken by some in disseminating B2B content will benefit greatly from a fresh approach. Professional services companies, for example, have a sizeable opportunity to demonstrate its expertise – the only thing it really sells – in many more engaging and compelling ways.
Media brands have also recognised the ‘bite-size’ opportunity and are rapidly experimenting with short-form and multimedia content. The Guardian with its mass of podcasts and evolving data journalism can scarcely be called just a newspaper anymore.
To seize this opportunity however, communicators need to up-skill rapidly. The necessary transferable skills are well-established in areas of PR such as broadcast and radio specialists, but they need to become part of any PR’s toolkit.
PRs now need to be as au fait recording and editing a quick talking-head video or audio snippet as they are writing a press release. Likewise, they must consider how research can escape the comforting walls of the PDF whitepaper, via data mashups and visualisation and how they can work with media outlets to bring their data to life.
The above trends present some important considerations for professional communicators:
Essential viewing/reading on this topic:
The Guardian’s podcasting operation:
Examples of combining data, graphics and video:
The cost of the Iraq war to the US by Good Magazine
Apple iPhone stats in an infographic video