The PR industry continues to evolve before our eyes. One of the greatest forces at work in this change is technology.
Technology is driving change at a dizzying rate, forcing public relations practitioners everywhere to scramble to stay on top of the latest and greatest advances.
Let’s look at some of these technological advances and how they’ve impacted what PR pros do on a daily basis.
Technology & media relations
Years ago, a fax machine was one of the primary means of transmitting a press release to a reporter.
Now, we send releases and media pitches by email or even via social media.
“I can’t imagine my work without technology. I’ve never worked without social media where I can contact everyone—journalists, influencers, etc.—or tools like @Prowly_com that make my work easier,” said Marta Ostrowska (@marta_o90 ), PR specialist at Mako Lab.
“Online networking and messaging tools have allowed us to build relationships, rapport, and credibility much quicker,” says Janka Pieper (@janka710), marketing communications professional at Northwestern University. “Messages also spread wider, faster.”
Gone are the days when media monitoring meant scouring the news for your clients’ coverage.
“I remember a time when media monitoring used to mean literally cutting up newspapers and mailing them (via snail mail) to the client,” said journalist and PR pro Neli Ngqulana (@Neli_Ngqulana).
“Automation via sophisticated monitoring systems means we can provide far more comprehensive coverage insights,” Ngqulana continued.
It used to be that providing even a simple photograph was an exercise that required forethought and planning to allow time to have the image produced and delivered to the journalist.
Now, beyond just offering a photo or video, we have live streaming, 360-degree videos, and plan a response to a crisis and augmented reality.
Video will only continue to become more important in the PR professional’s toolkit.
Measurement gets a lot of attention in the PR industry. The switch from AVEs (advertising value equivalency) to measurements like increased website traffic, better conversion rates, improved SEO rankings, and ultimately higher revenue, are increasingly the rule.
“Savvy PR pros have already switched to measuring either attitudinal changes, such as increased consideration and preference, or behavioral changes, as measured by conversions, web traffic, and leads,” says Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, in a PR Daily article.
Research has come a long way, too.
To put together a media list, for example, PR pros used to use giant printed Bacon’s media directories. If the client or agency didn’t have them in-house, off you’d go to the library to do your research.
Now, PR pros have many ways to do this research at their fingertips. Of course, Google is a great tool, but there is no end to media databases you can pay for to get access to information on journalists and publications and easily build media lists.
Gone are the days when brands had hours to plan a response to a crisis. Now, it has to be done swiftly, before social media takes over your message for you.
There is no time of day when a crisis goes unnoticed. With our always-on news cycle, brands need to be monitoring—and responding—in real-time to issues that arise.
Fortunately, social media monitoring/listening tools can help them do this.
Technology is even helping PR pros find more work.
“I work for an online platform that connects PR and marketing freelancers to client projects called @theworkcrowd. The traditional workforce and hiring are definitely changing thanks to technology,” says Anneliese Searle (@AnnelieseSearle).
But maybe it isn’t all change for the better
While all of this is helping PR pros do faster, not everyone believes technology has changed PR for the better.
“Working in PR for the public sector I’ve found tech, specifically social media, gives greater opportunity for people to take potshots at the organization. Negative voices often drown out the good work we do,” said freelance writer and marketer Paulie Ful (@PaulieFul).
And PR consultant Ronke Lawal (@ronkelawal) points to the Cambridge Analytica situation with Facebook as a downside to technological advances.
“Data capture, use of social media and digital news has an impact more than ever now,” Lawal says.
Technology in PR is here to stay
Whether you believe technology has changed PR for the better—or for the worse—it will continue to play a role in the profession’s evolution. Better buckle up and hang on for the ride.