The Future of Public Relations
The central issue that has surfaced because of the digital revolution is the ever changing definition of public relations. Kirk Hallahan, a professor at Colorado State University and member of PRSA Colorado, believes that more people will be engaging in PR like activities even though they are not considered PR professionals. The accessibility of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs has made it easier than ever to communicate with an audience.
“That means there is probably going to be a lot of very badly done communications,” says Hallahan. “I think there is going to be a lot more players and a melding of the distinction of what is public relations.”
Hallahan recognizes that social media has and will continue to change the way public relations is conducted. He feels, however, that true PR organizations need to expand their definition of social media in order to succeed in the future.
“I think digital communication and online communications are here to stay, there is no doubt about it,” says Hallahan. “Organizations must use a range of tools not just social media in order to promote themselves. They need to think about things like search engines, online advertising, online publicity, email, text messaging, outbound messages, and even Twitter. I think of social media more narrowly as those tools where people come together to talk with friends and build relationships. Those tools are going to continue as well, but it’s really a mix of more general digital tools plus social media.”
People like Nicole Plesec, PR director for hospitality and sales for the business-to-business company Lodgenet, does not believe social media will be important in the future for her company.
“It is an effective way to reach a large consumer audience. If you are a brand and you aren’t using a form of social media like Twitter or LinkedIn you’re definitely missing a huge audience,” says Plesec. “We currently don’t have a social media plan. I think with the audience that I market toward they aren’t going to find their news on Twitter like they would reading a magazine.”
Though many business-to-business companies are not using social media, Hallahan believes that there are social mediums these types of companies can use. As of now, these social mediums are being over shadowed by the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, but they will soon be on the rise.
“Wikis, web chats, and webinars sort of have some social elements and are certainly interactive, but they are not in the traditional, narrow sense what people think about a social networking site,” says Hallahan. “There may be instances where those would be very effective. The two areas I would think of would be internal communications and trade or business-to-business communication.”
The digital age will continue to change how public relations is conducted. One thing technology will not change are the fundamental skills needed to succeed as a PR professionals.
“The core skills of PR are unchanged,” says Hallahan. “People still need to think critically, they need to organize stories, organize campaigns, write and edit, and deliver information in a form that is appropriate to their audience. Those skills are not going to be different. “
Plesec, on the other hand, believes PR professionals should constantly look for new skills in order to remain relevant in the digital age.
“I would say an understanding of social networking is a required skill and how to use it to engage, inform, and bring value to the position that you do have,” says Plesec. “It’s also vital to understand how to use LinkedIn and some of those other social sites to present yourself online.”
One thing that will remain the same for public relations during the digital revolution is that everything will continue to change. The only way to succeed is to embrace the unknown.
“I would say that in my short career it has changed so much, and I think it’s going to continue to change,” says Plesec. “Personally, I am excited to see where it goes. With the iPad and all these new iPhones coming out, I think there is a lot to see and I think it will be exciting.”