“Last week my boss practically ‘killed’ me with work unrelated to public relations. I had to update a client’s e-commerce site with appropriate tags and content for their blog, create social media posts for our firm and manage a client’s video shoot to be used for a native advertising campaign (whatever that is) on Thrillest.com. Oh and not to mention… my boss made me create a project scope for an app that notifies our clients of marketing and PR opportunities and products we offer. I haven’t written one press release and am two seconds away from giving ‘MS. Manager’, a pink slip! This is not pr!” – Your mentee on Instagram, Misha
— More accurately your boss just introduced you to the role of the modern-day public relations professional. Over the past 10 years improvements in technology has prompted changes in every industry. Companies in media, marketing, and advertising have become more data-driven, volatile (because of the vastness of media platforms) and focused on scalability (figuring out how to produce high-quality content and little cost to advertisers), thus triggering the changes in media roles, including yours.
Today’s Publicist and Media Environment
Today’s fast-paced changing environments requires all media professionals (especially the publicist) to tell powerful stories supported by photography, video, or other visual works. In the past, media (both online and print) have not only been solely responsible for this but traditionally excelled in.
Today’s publicist shares and even lead the aforementioned initiatives. Most (if not all) editorial/content-driven companies have tighter deadlines and contracting editorial teams.
Due to the growing tug-of-war between product/business requirements and authentic content, the publicist must understand the business side of each media company they are working with or pitching to, while also be ing brand savvy and experienced enough to speak the language of their customer/audience – and if necessary to switch between voices – and not slip into “expert” speak while under pressure. It also helps, if I might add, to have a nerdy obsession with analytics.
Today’s customers are way savvier and aren’t looking to accept sales driven, marketing, hard-selling content. Today’s publicist must deeply understand the audience they’re speaking to (or content is being produced for), balance between authenticity, telling the story of the brand’s you represent and SEO/business needs of each media platform their pitching or producing content for
As the publicist you must be able to talk about the brands you represent without marketing, selling, and “pr’ing” them.
Content development, strategy, and management are all apart of today’s publicist’s role; a somewhat sharp departure from the traditional sense you’re used to or have been taught. It’s essential that today’s pr, communications, marketing, and media professional understand the trends that have expanded and shifted the role of a publicist (or pr firm).
Major trends that you can thank for this PR shift are technology and the growing digital world. As a PR professional, here are the feathers you can expect to add to your already well-adorned hat:
1. You’re a project manager (or product owner)
As a publicist or media professional you’re going to have to establish your true value-add. I consider “wearing multiple hats” a euphemism, for a project manager. The reality is that most publicists have always been known to juggle many projectss for their client and indirect or direct stakeholders. Today’s technology-driven and customer-centric environment make this even truer. I believe if more publicists “branded” themselves as project management professionals with experience in communications and PR, not only would this shift in labeling what you do (a little differently) more accurately reflect the work, it would also expand your scope of responsibilities, open you up to cross-industry opportunities, and position you to demand a greater salary. According to sites like Glassdoor (as of Saturday, November 26, 2017), the average national salary of a senior public relations manager – across all industries and given the same average years of experience – is $84,558 versus the average national salary of a senior project manager which is $102,318.
2. You’re a content producer
As a publicist or media professional, you’re going to have to serve differently. Stop sending press releases and pitches to editors or writers. Companies’ editorial departments, especially in traditional media settings, are contracting. This means, less people, more work, and also less time to hear your pitches and read your lengthy-ass-monotonous-looking press releases. If you want to get your client’s narrative out there, you might as well write the stories and pass the rights of such content off. Find out if the media companies you’re working with or interested in, have user-generated content platforms or any streamlined processes for submitting publish-ready content directly to their platforms (even if only as a draft for editors to review).
The reality of most publications is that they need quality “non-salesy” content. You, as the “publicist”, should master the art of constructing branded content, aka native content for the brands you represent. Although a little different from what you’re used to, it’s more direct and more effective. The good thing about this is you don’t have to go through the formalities of creating a communications strategy, pitch samples blah blah blah blah (old the old school stuff). It does still require you to know the platform you’re pitching to and the preferences of its editors. I would suggest increasing your chance of placements, you should do the following:
- Find out if the media platforms you’re pitching to have User Generated Content or Contributor Network Platforms
- Know the site’s taxonomies (categories, and tags ) and suggest them when submitting content
- Know the site’s featured image specs, cut all media (videos, images) according to site’s specs, and submit with content
- Know and understand goals of the site: increase video content, increase affiliate linking (which would mean include
- Know and understand best SEO practices
Although the above is beyond the traditional scope of PR, you’ll increase your chances of placement because you’ve made it easier and more efficient for editors and writers to meet their content submission goals (every site has them).
No one will provide you a free commercial or branding opportunity, however, media platforms need interesting content badly. It’s up to you to make it easy for an editor and writer to sign off on the content, make a few tweaks and post on their respective platforms.
3.You’re a digital/tech lead
A major mistake that many PR professionals make is not recognizing how the definition of PR is changing. Because of shifts in technology and dominant businesses and market players- the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Uber are producing services and products that impact the world and how business is done period. Since the aforementioned company (giants) are all internet and technology-based businesses…guess what that means for people like you, me, and any professional? It means we must adjust the way we do business to leverage off major trends. Since major trends are being created by online and tech businesses, it causes a ripple effect across all industries and a shift to all jobs. Mastering content marketing, digital communications, and online marketing has now become a critical part of the PR professional’s resume, and in fact- every job description.
You are no longer required to just be a PR professional but a digital PR professional or a technical PR professional. A publicist must understand that you present brand/client stories to the public to fulfill a purpose, but now, more than ever, also learn how to do so properly in the online media space. And even more importantly figure out the technical tools to use to make this an efficient, effective, revenue returning process. From a technology perspective, what content management system (CMS) is your company, clients, and partners using? What plugins are they using to support their press room or display client opportunities? What updates or tweaks can be implemented to the CMS or plugins to drive productivity, eliminate waste, and track the progress of said content or campaigns?
Let’s take Google as an example. One of the world’s most dominant search engines, it constantly changes it’s SEO guidelines. The changes impact social / media sites and advertising agencies that serve these platforms immediately. The platforms must in turn change to adapt to and adopt Google’s changes and so must their employees who must do so otherwise they become obsolete and ineffective in their roles.
4.You’re more data-savvy
With advancements in tech – PR and communications professional will need to become more data savvy, proving ROI or justifying startups. Companies aren’t making “money moves,” with you without you doing the data dance.
You can’t just plop content on a website and hope it converts into revenue. Nor can you just send out random tweets and hope to build a community. Ideal clients look beyond the transaction and understand that a good brand experience doesn’t necessarily result in immediate sales but has a subtle, yet cumulative lasting effect.
Quite frankly, every publicist needs to get familiar with dashboards: HootSuite, Adsense, google analytics (GA), and Omniture.
The best bit about writing for the web – be it editorial or branded content – is that you can drill down into the nuances of audience response in almost real time via CMS and Omniture etc. It can be incredibly exciting to see that in motion.
Also, when it comes to working with influencers and bloggers (will be mentioned below), you’ll want to use data to evaluate followers to engagement ratio. Outside of data, other things that play a role include a brand’s aesthetic, quality of content, and personal relationships. However, understanding your data is a springboard for communicating effectively with brand audiences and driving results for your clients.
5. You’re blurring the lines
Recent trends have drastically bridged the once separate worlds of public relations, communications, media, and marketing —sometimes to the point at which it’s difficult to tell the difference between them. Marketing is typically defined as the promotion of products and services to consumers, while public relations is the creation of positive impressions of a brand in the eyes of a wider audience.
In the past, achieving these two goals often involved very different tactics. But today, marketers and PR professionals frequently find themselves using the same tools, including the development of engaging content that promotes products/services and enhances a brand’s reputation at the same time.
In an agency setting, this means PR professionals and marketers must work together and plan their efforts so that they support each other’s objectives.
6. You’re going to productize/digitize (scale) services
To scale (serve more customers, efficiently, effectively, ) without compromising on quality, more service or experience based companies are developing software, tools, and products (peripherals from which their company is based), to service more clients and create residual income. More companies are looking to take advantage of economies of scale; improve operational efficiencies, minimize variable costs, and establish consistent revenue flows.
7. You’re your own medium
Given that today’s PR professional has to work in the digital and tech space, they must take on an ever-growing number of responsibilities, in addition to the more traditional roles of pitching stories and enhancing their clients’ profiles. They now must engage in dynamic online conversations and develop deep connections between brands and their target customers. They must grow online communities (a dedicated fountain of users) for clients to drink from.
In other words, building owned media platforms (your own digital assets/ platforms) now is just as important as earned media — getting a reporter to write a story about your brands.
In order for PR requires practitioners to get people interacting with a brand’s content in meaningful ways—most often it can happen more authentically through your built network, newsletters, online publications, social media engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among many others.
8. You’re working with influencers
Especially with the emergence of fake news, the only way to fight it is to partner with authentic individuals (influencers) or (maybe even ‘blur the lines’ and become one).
Researching potential influencer partners isn’t restricted to the partner’s follower numbers. The amount and quality of engagement an influencer’s content receives– helps you to understand how responsive their audience is and if it will suit your client’s purposes. When an influencer’s following is large, with little interaction, that may signify a large number of “fake or bot” followers that will not help your brand/client story in any way.