A while ago I was asked to be part of an IABC panel event to talk to our communications industry about the future of PR, and what it'll look like in 2027. It's not often I'm asked to share my reckons, especially about a topic that I'm reasonably opinionated about, so I was excited to be invited, particularly to join a panel with such important people in our industry. If you missed the event last night or are interested more in where I see PR going, please read on.
I've been working in the PR industry for nearly 18 years, and while I've dabbled in a few other things in that time, largely, PR is my core trade. You don't need me to tell you that PR is constantly evolving. It has been in motion since the late 90's and it's not about to stop now. Traditionally it was all about media relations for a company and what coverage in the mainstream media and glossy titles could do for them. Media relations is still a part of what we do, but if PR people want to remain useful and employed in this brave new world, they're going need to add a lot more to their LinkedIn endorsement list, beyond press releases.
My friend Gini Dietrich of Chicago based PR firm Arment Dietrich and founder of my most favourite blog ever, Spin Sucks, says that communications professionals need to be hybrid communicators and I agree with her. To be a hybrid communicator you'll need to fully understand media relations and all that entails, but also be completely proficient in digital storytelling and content planning, social media, and paid advertising.
Talking about paid ads, I'm sure we're all familiar with the PESO communications model, and even as little as a year ago, I would have said that the "PAID" part of PESO for PR people, meant sorting out facebook ads and sponsoring posts. Not anymore. In the future, or now, when your client is launching a product that needs a fully integrated launch plan, you're going to need to master media buying. Sure, you might have friends or an agreement with an ad agency to help you, however, the value you will add to your client by being able to take the lead on the launch including their paid advertising is pretty phenomenal. My firm has been leading the launch for new cricket platform BehindTheSeams.TV and a hybrid role here has been absolutely necessary.
Next up is metrics. And I don't mean advertising equivalents like we touted in the 90's. I mean true measurements of how effective your work is for getting leads in the door of your clients. In the future, and you can start this today actually, PR people need to show demonstrable evidence of their work contributing to a company's bottom line. Google have made it really easy for PR firms to measure their work, with its analytics tool. You don't need to go all gung-ho on guaranteeing leads to your clients if you're not comfortable with that (I get it, baby steps), but when you see users downloading content and signing up for lists, you can give yourself a pat on the back, as this means your work has made a positive impact to a company.
It's pretty clear that digital PR will be super prominent in the future - it is now, so there's no turning back. But how we embrace new technology like AI, will be key to the importance of PR practitioners in the future. AI robots as I like to call them, won't be taking your job, but they'll change it. Imagine how much time you spend on writing, and then think of the time freed up when a cute AI robot writes the majority for you based on some keywords and long tail questions you prepare for it. Your writing role will evolve into an editing role to shape the content and soften it with emotion and tone. AI probably can't do that for you, so take a breath, your job is safe.
Strategic advice is my final point today. And this one is really important. PR people need to get a seat at the top table and in time they will. When discussing business strategy and planning, our experience in communicating a message and via what methods is crucial to the success of a company. This will be more important in Government departments across the world, too. We only need to mention the Trump administration debacle and how disjointed and offensive to many, certain characters have behaved with their opinions and reckons. Communication controlled by a presence at the top table, could have saved some face.
I wish to thank the New Zealand chapter of IABC for inviting me to join their panel event, special mention to my panel colleagues, Sharon Hunter (international speaker), IABC Global Chair, Regan Savage, Kiwibank GM Marketing Communications, Debbie Barber, Ministry of Health GM Communications, and thank you to IABC Wellington President Shaun Jones for the top notch facilitation.
Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland, she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.