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Five Ways PR Has Changed Dramatically in the Past Five Years
By: Jeannine Wheeler
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There is no question that one of the industries that has been most changed by digital and social media has been PR. Here are five things that have altered most radically.

PR looks more like advertising
For all the years we have tried to distinguish ourselves, PR today is looking more like advertising than ever. Content creation is a case in point. By any other name, it’s advertising, conveying subtle and not-so-subtle brand messages to a largely unwitting audience. And in cases where it’s perfectly plain (The New York Times labels its native advertising in very small print with the tag “Paid Post”), readers don’t seem to care. In fact, BI Intelligence and the Interactive Advertising Bureau report that native advertising will generate $21 billion in ad spending by 2018 — more than four times that of 2013.

Social media means more “intimate” connections
PR is now working in a more global marketplace. A small business in Austin, Texas, for example, can talk directly to a consumer or prospective consumer in Beijing. Due to the propensity of social and digital media, the response is immediate and — despite differences in geography and culture — arguably more intimate. The best, and perhaps most challenging, thing for PRs is that messages are no longer solely disseminated through the media, but delivered directly for an immediate and more “intimate” response.

Campaigns can now be measured instantly
When you find that a greater proportion of your leads comes in through Facebook when you thought Twitter was the best channel, you can quickly turn your ship around. This is the great value of the plethora of analytical tools now available. PRs should use them regularly to ensure the greatest efficacy in their campaigns.

The silo approach goes against the grain
Whether you’re working with a big brand that wants a one-stop shop or a startup that needs one professional to perform many of the tasks of a marketing team, your best move is to abandon the silo approach to PR. With social media firmly in our remit, we’ve got to have a fairly deep understanding of digital anyway. Throw in a bit of SWOT talk and we can clearly align PR strategy with overall business goals. Today’s PR professional should be wide open to learning as much as possible about digital and brand marketing (particularly analytics) and work closely with other teams to realize company goals.

PR now has five audiences
Whereas it used to be one audience that mainly concerned PRs — the media —it is now five: the media, clients, consumers, prospective customers, and investors, all of whom can be affected by a well-targeted messaging campaign. Through social media and digital tactics, each audience can be addressed and influenced individually and strategically.

All in all, it’s pretty exciting to be a PR professional today, but only if we adapt a constant campaign of industry training, knowledge, and refreshment, allowing us to keep up with a myriad of sea changes.

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About the Author
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.
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