The evolution of the PR Industry

Isabel Tapp, CEO and Founder, AllDetails Middle East offers her thoughts on the evolution of the PR industry in the region and how PR agencies can adapt to the enormous changes today…

“I strongly believe that all good PR firms these days need to be integrated – incorporating a mixture of PR, marketing and social media as a bare minimum. Of course, this goes hand in hand with traditional specialisations of crisis communications and media relations.”

To put it simply, just as communication evolves, so must PR. I have been working in public relations and marketing my entire life, representing some of the world’s most prestigious brands and the way we worked a decade or so ago, is not the way we work now. Of course, the core principles of traditional PR remain the same, but as we have seen a rapid move to the digitalisation of the communications industry, thanks to both the internet and social media, our practices and strategies have also needed to move forward.

As the owner of an agency that specialises in public relations, I have made a conscious effort over the past few years to approach my recruitment process differently. Instead of solely looking to hire people with an extensive background in agencies, I am looking to hire a team with individual skill sets from a variety of backgrounds – I have qualified journalists and ex-editors forming the core of my senior management team, as well as staff experienced in graphic design, digital marketing and event management. It is because of this wide and varied skill sets amidst a relatively small team that we are able to call ourselves a multi-service communications agency or a hybrid, as I like to refer to us.

I strongly believe that all good PR firms these days need to be integrated – incorporating a mixture of PR, marketing and social media as a bare minimum. Of course, this goes hand in hand with traditional specialisations of crisis communications and media relations.

The principles of PR remain the same, but the change comes in the form of control and direction, by constructing communications strategies for clients that centre on content, both creation and distribution. This incorporates public relations, social media and marketing across traditional and new media and is something that all should be involved in, from the Communications Director to the junior account executives, each person bringing with them a fresh idea and different sense of perspective. The underlying motto does not change – ‘understand your audience’, this is the foundation for great content creation.

I have seen a greater need for having creative and innovative thinkers as part of a team – people that are up to date with current media and global trends, but also possess the foresight to see what is just around the corner and then construct creative strategies for clients in order to capitalise on these new developments. This is effective from not only a public relations point of view, but also a sales and marketing one – ultimately, what all clients want is more sales.

Content creation is key. Having good storytellers at the core creates good stories, whether this is through a traditional press release, social media or curated content for thought leadership – this is the reason why agencies should employ a multi-lingual team. With good content, amplifying it to the target audience is much easier and the creation of avenues for distribution / publication subsequently opens up. The great thing about the skill of storytelling is that with digital PR there are no creative boundaries – you can now engage in ways, which I would once have never imagined possible and that I think, is rather exciting.

We are witnessing a time-lapse view on changes to communication thanks to the rise of social media and the internet – it is now up to agencies to adapt and adapt quickly. For example, traditional print media which was once the core of public relations outreach, is now complemented online by a supporting website which also runs the content. This marks the change in which the world is now digesting information – thus, the internet is immediate.

By constantly adapting our skill sets, agencies are able to work in such a way that tactics of traditional public relations such as press release distribution, reputation management, event coordination and crisis communications are still valid, but now we need to understand SEO and measurable digital tactics too, in order to ensure that our clients get the maximum return on investment. Social media influencers are a great example of where PR teams have had to learn relatively quickly to understand and build contacts with an entirely different form of media altogether. These digital influencers can have just as much brand authority, sometimes even to a greater reach and engagement than traditional media and should not be ignored.

In my many years of working in PR, there has never been a more exciting or challenging time for communications professionals. Adaptability and flexibility must surely be the most important characteristics of any PR professional in this time of change and instantaneous information.