Media and tech are key drivers of change in public relations

Authored by Sarah Hall.
3 min read

It’s clear from this year’s Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 league table (external link)and the success of featured companies such as Skyscanner, the online flight search engine, and peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle, that the pace of change in media and technology continues unabated. This creates a significant knock-on effect for anyone working in the communications business.

Clear impact on the business of public relations

Developments in media and tech have completely transformed the public relations industry.

Media consumption habits have changed with an unquestionable shift from print to online.

Organisations and individuals today share stories directly with audiences via owned, paid and shared media. Stories break via trending algorithms on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

These developments are well documented in the book #FuturePRoof: Edition Two (external link), which I curated and edited and launched recently in print via Blurb (external link) and on the Kindle via Amazon (external link).

The book is a best practice guide for anyone in the communications business and draws together over 40 practitioners at the top of their game from around the world.

Helping public relations professionals make sense of change

#FuturePRoof: Edition Two helps practitioners make sense of the changing world around them, while providing an eye to the horizon.

Topics include audience insight, influencer relations, tools and technology, as well as agile strategy and business models.

The technology element has already resonated strongly with practitioners looking for tools to help them fulfill their comms objectives without heavy commercial spend.

Churn is a key issue – avoiding one hit wonders and deciding whether emerging trends like gamification will deliver return on investment, remains front of mind for comms pros and marketers alike.

While video for business is now mainstream, live streaming platforms and apps are slowly working their way into the public relations professional’s toolbox as mobile device usage and online video consumption continues to grow.

Today Dropbox, Slack, Facebook for Work and many other types of software enable agile working across time zones and geographical areas.

But it’s augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), that have yet to prove themselves, with adoption as yet relatively slow.

Even so, they’re growing in popularity and increasingly working their way into daily working life, as Stephen Davies explains in his chapter on horizon scanning.

‘AR will increasingly make its way into PR related campaigns. Take product launches where an AR overlay may create more interaction with the use of entertaining and informative content,’ says Davies.

‘VR can help brands of all kinds from fashion, tourism, hospitality, sport and everything in between. Social media will play a part in supporting the rise of AI, AR and VR and will likely serve as the platform on which new services are launched.’

The opportunity is there for PR – we just need to take it

Many of the themes are consistent with Dr Jon White’s book How to Understand and Manage Public Relations (external link) published in 1991. Twenty-five years on, public relations is experiencing something of a resurgence in confidence thanks to technology and new forms of media.

Professionals recognize that if public relations is to be taken seriously as a management discipline, they need to close their competency gaps in order to provide strategic advice at management level.

What’s more, the industry is waking up to the fact that if the public relations team is guiding organisational strategy, it makes common sense for other disciplines to answer to the PR function within the corporate hierarchy. This is a fundamental change, although one that has yet to gather pace.

Ultimately the industry has a lot to offer, and is a great place to be. According to the PRCA PR Census published this summer, the sector is worth £12.9 billion and growing by about ten percent each year.

Everyone working in the business ought to think about where the industry is heading next and upskill accordingly in order to capitalize on the opportunities continuing to come our way.

At Hiscox, we want to help your small business thrive. Our blog has many articles you may find relevant and useful as your business grows. But these articles aren’t professional advice. So, to find out more on a subject we cover here, please seek professional assistance.

Sarah Hall

Sarah Waddington is a pioneer of best practice in the PR industry. Winner of the CIPR’s Sir Stephen Tallents medal in 2014 for exceptional achievement in PR practice, Hall was CIPR 2018 President and she continues to sit on the Institute’s Board and Council to lead its gender and diversity work. She is also a member of the Northern Power Women Power List, and Founder of #FutureProof, a community and book series designed to support communication and PR managers.