Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable shift in communications and public relations. Many of the silos that once existed between traditional PR and related industries like marketing and advertising have broken down. PR firms, non-profits and associations are now integrating what were once separate practices.
This new integration was the focus of the March 15 PRSA-NCC’s Professional Development workshop, “Blurred Lines: How Is the Public Relations Industry Reinventing Itself.” Panelists Soren Dayton, senior vice president of digital advocacy at H+K; Sara Wiskerchen, managing director of media communications at National Association of Realtors; and Beth Perell, vice president of communications and information management at Goodwill Industries shared tips and thoughts on how to navigate the new landscape.
When it comes to what’s driving the change in the industry, Wiskerchen said it is a result of shifting consumer demand. In Perell’s opinion, consumers want to receive content at a much faster pace. And, in order to keep up with consumer demand, Dayton said it’s important to have compelling, unbiased content. Consumers are looking at social and digital platforms as additional sources of information. As the digital arena continues to develop, Perell stressed that one of the benefits of these tools is that they are trackable and allow communications professionals to show how their campaigns are performing.
PR strategies have traditionally focused on earning media coverage. Now, some firms and associations are starting to pay for native advertising and editorial placements, blending the lines between PR and marketing content. Wiskerchen said that the average consumer likely can’t tell the difference between paid placements and editorial content. Most importantly, Wiskerchen, Perell and Dayton all stressed that content must have a strong, unified brand message. To do this, Perell explained how Goodwill’s communications teams have a weekly meeting to ensure that all external messages are aligning.
As communications teams begin to take on new responsibilities and roles, one of the questions that came up during the discussion was how jobs will be affected. Dayton said the new landscape puts more of a privilege on creativity, and stressed the need for strong writing skills and the ability to tell good stories.
While industry integration has brought several changes to communications and marketing strategies, one of the things that remains unchanged is the need to be sure we understand our organization or clients, who the target audiences are and what we are trying to achieve and accomplish.
(Photo: Beth Perell, Sara Wiskerchen, moderator Danny Selnick and Soren Dayton.)