media update's Emma Beavon takes you through how the PR industry has changed in the past 20 years.

The rise of the Internet and social media has completely changed the way PR professionals navigate through the industry. Coupled with the rise of influencers, the changing role of these professionals is enough to highlight just how much the industry has, and probably will, continue to change in the future.

Understanding these changes is essential for PR companies to continue to be successful because they affect how PR professionals and companies do business and interact with their clients and audiences. Without this understanding, these companies will become out of touch and will lose clients to organisations that are up to date with the latest changes and trends. 

The role of PR professionals

As the PR industry continues to evolve, the role of the PR professional evolves with it. This is essential because the demands of clients have changed so much over the last two decades. Clients now expect everything to be at the click of a button without any hassle. 

Nowadays, clients also expect to be treated as individuals rather than ‘just another client’. Without this evolution, both the industry and its professionals would be left behind.

PR Week says that ‘integration, convergence and ramping up [the] importance of digital and social media’ are the overarching themes driving the PR industry evolution.

Real-time marketing is becoming a big part of the industry as PR professionals now have to be up to date on the current trends and news, which will then shape their strategy or approach to certain clients. 

This means that they have to learn a new skill set and revise their capabilities. And working closely with marketers will ensure that they are able to understand the marketing side of PR. Today, PR professionals need to have a working knowledge of marketing, as the two industries continue to converge thanks to new technology and social media. 

This also means that they have to become proficient in working on and with social media. They are expected to have a deep understanding of what social media is, how the different platforms work and how to use them to build and drive effective campaigns. They also need to ensure that they keep up with what’s trending and popular as this will determine a social media campaign’s success or failure. 

These changes mean that PR is no longer purely about working around journalistic deadlines, but it’s also about taking into account blogs and influencer content that have a big social reach across various platforms. 

For this reason, it would be very beneficial for PR companies to conduct seminars or short courses for their staff to brush up on how to work with social media, how it can shape a strategy and how to find insights about certain platforms to measure content performance on social media. 

This is one way to ensure that everyone in your company is up to date on the changes in the industry and therefore secure the success of the brand!

The rise of influencers

While journalists and publications continue to provide an important source of earned media within the PR industry, the number of people who have a strong influence on social media has risen exponentially.

The massive growth of influencer marketing in just a handful of years has changed how PR professionals distribute their content. This is because influencers have been added to the strategy, and now form part of where a company’s marketing takes place.

Most PR professionals are now more focussed on how social media can be used to improve their strategy than traditional methods. Social media has not only changed the type of content these professionals create and distribute, but also how they attract their audiences.

Insight into the platforms that brands and audiences interact on, the topics that audiences are interested in as well as the current social trends people are participating in are an essential part of modern-day PR. 

These insights give PR professionals an idea of the kind of content their audience is interested in and will, therefore, help them pick an influencer that will fit their strategy. They then affect who a company will pick to be their influencer and the type of content the brand will want from that particular influencer. 

Using influencers helps to create a closer, more ‘personal’ relationship between brands and clients, which is why many PR companies have turned to influencers to get their messages across. 

The content that influencers post to their followers is integral to how a company is perceived and to its success. This is because if the content posted is well-executed and relevant to the audience, it will get a positive reaction, whereas if it is not relevant and poorly done, the response will be negative. This is why the brand and the influencer have to come to some kind of agreement and set out guidelines of what is expected from posts. 

The expanding social landscape means that, unlike 20 years ago, PR professionals are now far more dependent on content to create deeper relationships with their clients and their audience. 

What does the future hold for the PR industry?

The PR industry is still evolving, and that means that modern PR professionals will need to gain new skills in order to keep up.

The future is going to be more visual than ever, so these professionals will have to focus more on creating sharable and relatable images and growing their storytelling abilities. The stories’ content, however, will have to be short, snappy and interesting to keep audiences engaged.

What do you think the future of the PR industry could look like? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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One PR company has already decided to say Goodbye influencers — hello traditional PR! Check out our article to find out why.