How PR must change along with emerging technology

With advancements come new challenges for communicators of all stripes. ‘Use more visuals,’ ‘Make sure it gets shared,’ ‘Watch out for cyber risks.’ Here are the musts for industry pros.

Along with other industries, public relations has been enhanced and made more challenging by technology.

The way in which we communicate—that companies communicate—has been shaped by the latest and greatest advances in tech. PR pros have had to stay nimble and adaptive and must continually incorporate the latest developments into PR plans.

Public relations looks different from the way it did 10 years—even five years—ago. Here are some ways that technology has shaped the industry:

1. Words are no longer enough. Written communication is still a key part of public relations, but being able to tell a story through visuals has become almost as important. Infographics, videos and images have become a standard in explaining a company or product.

2. Meaning is conveyed through symbols and images. Because brevity is key (not only for tweets), what better way to convey emotion or set the stage than with symbols and images? The popularity of emoji, GIFs and Snapchat speaks to the new way people communicate online. Because not all companies can speak in emoji, it means what we write and create for companies has to be descriptive enough to convey meaning accurately.

3. News is consumed differently. Where people get their information is constantly changing. With new outlets, verticals and blogs, along with the rise of amateur reporting, communication has to be highly targeted to reach its intended audience. It’s clear that people spend more time reading online (and it’s easier to report breaking news that way), targeted paid content continues to be a useful tactic, and algorithms drive the news that people see and read. Consumption has shifted and will continue to do so.

4. Social media is a pivotal part of engagement. One key question in communications is, “Will people share it?” Related to the shift of how we get information, social media has become a useful tool to gather and pass along news (and sometimes, where journalists find news to report), which adds a layer to public relations.

5. Communicating has become borderless. Though it’s not a new development, borders have been shrinking faster when it comes to reaching target audiences and communicating because of technology. Whether it’s through messaging (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger), snapping photos or sharing company news, connecting with people worldwide has become easier.

6. Data and analytics make our jobs easier and our programs smarter. The best PR always starts and ends with research, and the data and analytics functions available to us make our campaigns and strategies smarter and easier.

7. The list of potential crises now includes cyber risks. As if we didn’t have enough contingency planning to do already, cybersecurity threats—data breaches, email hacking, technology snafus—ll have to be part of crisis planning. We’ve had to learn to communicate about our technology abilities and explain the intricacies of technology—or at least prepare for it.

What else would you add to this list, PR pros?

Julia Sahin works in financial communications at a top PR firm in New York. Connect with her on Twitter. All opinions are her own and do not reflect her employer’s. A version of this article first appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

Topics: PR

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