Blog post
June 24, 2019

The relevance of PR in the age of digital, social & citizen journalism

I crowd-sourced some opinions on ‘how PR has evolved’ via Facebook before this article was penned, and ‘chaotically’, ‘always-on’, ‘unpredictably’ and ‘intense’ were among some of the top keywords surfaced. Exactly how fast is the news-making cycle today? I’ve experienced it first-hand a couple of weeks ago.

9am, on my way to work, I posted on my Facebook page about a new flat fare option launched by local taxi company ComfortDelGro. 

By 11 am on the same day, three interview requests had arrived via Facebook Messenger from three different publications. By 2 pm, all interviews were completed on WhatsApp and my name appeared in the papers on the very next day. The whole event took place in less than 24 hours.

This is a glimpse of how news is made in this day and age. Journalists today are online and on social media; they are following key opinion leaders (KOLs) to get opinions. Gone are the days when they relied solely on press releases and spokesperson soundbites to write news and when public opinion was easier to gauge as people were only accessing a handful of mediums to receive information.

The convergence of digital, social and mobile has added layers of complexity in PR and clearly disrupted the practice, as news today becomes 24×7 and travels across the globe at the speed of the internet. The infamous United Airline incident for example, although happened in Chicago, created an uproar and boycott in China and trended in the top news on Weibo, all because of the power of social media.

The rise of digital and social certainly has benefited PR by creating the direct relationships with people, rather than requiring a media filter. To fully unleash its benefits, the best PR talents should strike the balance between creating content that people actually want to read, listen to or watch, and providing what traditional journalism would consider “news.”

With a good piece of content and story at the core, PR professionals are required to have the ability to navigate an increasingly complex media environment and to embrace the beauty of digital and social to enhance storytelling.

Instead of issuing a formal corporate announcement, why not consider tapping on Facebook Live for product launches and public activations? OCBC Bank recently launched its Stay True campaign via Facebook Live, where the bank’s Head of Consumer Financial Services was put through a lie detector test. The video garnered over 200,000 view to date.

Another example of leveraging digital to innovate traditional PR approach is a revamp of online corporate newsrooms. Dynamic Newsroom is a mash-up of PR, content and digital, which is designed to drive engagement, not simply overload information. It takes the best of everything we know about media relations and hosting content online, to more effectively connect brands with journalists.

Having talked about the benefits and opportunities, I also would like to caution that this trend of digital and social convergence also poses certain threats.

As social media increasingly becomes a main source of news and information and due to the fact that most social media content is user-generated, in order to boost visibility and garner likes and shares, brands and citizen journalists have been noticed to use unethical techniques to make their content exciting or ‘viral’. Such fake news and clickbait headlines are detrimental to brand reputation and consumer trust.

With great power comes great responsibility. The ability to earn credibility becomes even more important in an era of round-the-clock marketing messages. PR is becoming even more important and relevant than ever as the most reliable voice.

Originally published on Digital Marketing Asia 

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