What is PR for the Online Era?

The deadline for entries for the prestigious PR Week Awards came and went last week, largely unnoticed by the general public but accompanied, no doubt, by a last minute panic to collate entry forms by PR agencies up and down the country. The Awards showcase the most creative and innovative use of a marketing discipline that many – even in the marketing business – still don’t thoroughly understand.  And with good reason. PR stands for ‘public relations’ which, in itself, is a very ambiguous term.  That very ambiguity, moreover, means that the boundaries of what actually constitutes PR keep shifting and, as communication channels and technologies expand, the lines between PR and other marketing disciplines are becoming increasingly blurred.

While a decade ago, PR largely fell in to three disciplines: events, lobbying and media (with PR roughly categorized as everything that was editorial while advertising was paid for space), these days the old rules don’t always apply. User generated content, online content marketing and social media have all created new opportunities for PR, some of which involve the tricky business of putting the messages into the hands of the ‘public’ itself to pass on to its peers.

It’s a brave new world for some of the PR die hards out there and there is still a place for technical articles in B2B journals, many of which can help boost a company’s online presence with their web-based versions as well as providing valuable column inches in print. But there is a science to making PR effective and, like any science, it must be constantly evolving and able to embrace new ideas if it is to continue to be relevant.

The fact that the PR Week Awards have been adding new categories over the past few years is a clear indication that the PR sector is embracing change and capitalizing on new trends in communication.  Some things never change, however, and, crucially, the main element that links traditional PR to 21st century PR is the importance of a good idea that can be delivered in a creative way to generate a clearly defined response. The trick is hitting upon ideas that will be engaging to the target demographic and then integrating the use of appropriate channels to drive engagement and response.

To summarize, here are our top tips on making PR effective, whether it’s a traditional campaign or a more online-driven approach:

  • Ensure you have a core theme or idea that is relevant and accessible to your audience
  • Consider which channels will be most engaging to your audience and integrate them effectively
  • Define the response you want and ensure your tactics are designed to elicit that response
  • Use images effectively
  • Consider how you are going to measure the effectiveness of your PR activity