Digital has transformed every aspect of our lives, but how much has it changed the nature of public relations – or is it still too soon to tell? We spoke to Ben Philipson, Deputy Managing Director at Marlin PR, to find out what impact digital has had on the industry, and what skills you need to succeed as a ‘digital PR pro’.
Has “digital” really changed the day-to-day role of PR?
Some of you may be too young to remember it, but some years ago, we used to courier printed press releases to journalists! I remember faxing hundreds of media alerts to promote Madonna’s first live-streamed concert, which shows how PR hasn’t always kept pace with technology trends.
You only need to compare that with the rich variety of ways we have of engaging media and other stakeholders today, whether it’s emailing a press release or producing a compelling and shareable content on social media today. Yesterday, one of our executives was telling me how she secured a story through Snapchat with CNBC.
So what is digital PR?
There’s a lot of unnecessary mysticism about digital that can be really unhelpful and obfuscatory.
For us, digital is a hybrid evolution of traditional approaches. Simply the architecture around which we base our communications. There’s nothing particularly clever about connecting with people through social media – we do that every day in our personal lives.
But designing campaigns that make the best use of the opportunities afforded by these new technologies and platforms is very appealing.
Digital PR takes into account a client’s digital stipulations such as differing types of links, e.g. affiliate or tracked, increased number of followers etc., and develop a digital strategy in order to achieve their objectives using various channels. You could consider Google webmaster guidelines, link quality, and roughly another 200 ranking factors as part of this but you could also hyperventilate. SEO doesn’t really care much what the site looks like, but instead, what the Google algorithm thinks of it.
Digital has enabled PR to improve and enhance relationships, and have much richer and involved conversations with audiences.
What makes a great digital PR professional?
In the rush to digital, we risk forgetting the eternal importance of traditional PR skills. We’ll always need good writers, great listeners, creatives and strategists.
But these days we want people who have a passion, the knowledge and their own vision of how to make digital a success. Anything from writing for social channels to having technical skills such as coding or content development. These people don’t just help us execute campaigns, but enable us to exploit the full potential of digital and push the boundaries.
You expect younger PRs to understand digital platforms and concepts but that’s a false assumption; to be a great digital PR you need to bring something unique and powerful to your employer. This could be anything: social media wizardry, picture or video editing, or a comprehensive understanding of the digital landscape – combined with the ability to turn concepts into brilliant collateral and results. Have your own vision, believe in it and go after it. We call this an ‘individual less ordinary’ because ordinary these days is pretty impressive.
What’s next for digital PR?
So much opportunity. Our best work happens when it’s constructed on the precise objectives of the campaign and the specific audience personas we need to target. But, the concept of ‘Digital’ works best when it is applied across the marketing mix using different disciplines; this is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry – working together in creative industry harmony.
If you’re looking to make the move into digital PR, then check out our jobs here! Or for more information on how to make the transition from traditional to digital, give us a call on 020 3198 0081.