Before I jump into things with this post (and jump, I will), let me start by defining what I mean by “traditional PR” just to be clear.
To me, when I think about traditional PR, I picture old men in suits wooing journalists and shouting to mass media markets about how amazing their latest story is and why it’s important to everyone. Traditional PR engenders a push economy approach to communication. In today’s world, we often call one-way information “spin.” Because there’s nothing better than well produced prose, and there’s nothing worse than not being able to be heard, too, when it comes to feeding back.
Whether you call it PR, propaganda, or simply proselytizing, humans and corporations have always sought to grow the positive sentiment around themselves or their offerings. Born out of necessity – and out of simple, human communication and the desire to be liked and popular, PR, with the invent of new technologies and channels is changing. For the better.
PR professionals have traditionally spent a lot of time cultivating relationships with journalists and other members of the mass media. But this dynamic is changing. Fast.
In an age where the public have access to a wealth of information beyond comprehension, and the ability to create stories 24/7/365 – ABOUT ANYTHING & EVERYTHING (from brands to breaking news), it’s not the mass media that holds all of the power anymore over persuading the public one way or another. It’s the little guy with the smartphone who’s got a good idea and a strong opinion – not to mention a large group of engaged followers.
In fact, I assert that it’s actually niche thought leaders & digital natives who understand their audiences, and the channels in which they’re publishing who are truly are heard amongst the din of advertorial, advertising, and soft syrupy spin – AKA press releases that can be both exciting (for the company involved) and yawn-inducing (for the public) at the same time. Two-way conversations and multi-channel communication is the key to keeping people involved and engaged.
Today’s digital natives know where, when, and how to talk to their extremely targeted and already engaged audiences because, for the most part, they are already an integral part of the communities they are influencing. And we all know that we listen more intently to “one of us” over “one of them”.
Thus, most modern digital audiences don’t need convincing – or propaganda to make up their minds about something. They need businesses that understand them like a local, and engage with them where and how they want to engage. They’re willing to read more, to interact more, and to share the information they’ve found more because they have a genuine interest in what they’re reading or interacting with.
I believe that today’s digital wizards are effecting the most change in society. Think about it, they inherently understand their audience so persuasion takes a backseat to passion. And people love passion. They’re moved by it, and they want to find it for themselves. So they follow those who seem genuine and interesting.
Journalists of big papers and media outlets the world over used to wait for a scoop. They’d be sent a press release and write a story in the paper about it. But in today’s world, the smart journalists trawl through social media, blogs, and content streams daily and often reach out to members of the public to source stories as they happen.
This, in turn, has created a new breed of accidental journalists and publishers. All with their own followers – and who now are known as influencers in their own right.
In a world which was once a one-sided “push” when it came to information, today’s two-sided, conversational digital world means that traditional PR is well, and truly, 6 feet under and pushing up daisies. It’s the new-age PR pros that will rise and succeed. And, brands that hire these new-age pros will be the ones who flourish.
So, while traditional publishers still have a say, they just don’t have the last word – or even the first anymore.
Traditional PR is dead, long live traditional PR.