Steve Martin, a Digital Strategist with Copperfox and David Amerland, Author and Analyst discuss the changing role of PR as we move ever-forwards into a digital communication age and some of the reasons why the ’traditional’ model of PR (with heavy reliance on one-way communication) needs to urgently embrace a new challenge i.e. the demand being created by social media for authentic, transparent and multi-way communication.
For me, the most important word being used frequently here is authentic i.e. accurate, fact-based and trustworthy. Social media users demand transparency, openness, truth, integrity and authenticity i.e. the ‘human’ factors upon which, arguably, all long-term mutual relationships are built. In other words, the power-base for corporate-public communications has shifted. No longer can a corporate entity or organisation espouse one-way comms to a submissive public and expect their communication efforts to impact. The social media age is levelling off the playing field. As Steve Martin says “spin just doesn’t cut it any more”.
Burch (2013, p.11) describes the need for a shift from traditional to conversational communication tactics, emphasising the importance of jointly constructing meaning and building ‘brands’ together with your audience - empowering ’advocates’ for your brand: not just segmenting and targeting publics. Gone are the days when messages can be carefully constructed in a corporate PR backroom. Successful organisations in this new era build their brand and protect their image by embracing the new level playing field that social media offers: where connections are real, live and ever-developing based on authentic interactions and relationship-building. PR therefore needs to think differently.Social media may be viewed by some as just another ‘tool’ in the box. However, can there ever be PR these days without some aspect of digitalised PR? Brown (2013, p.6) suggests that there is no such thing as a PR campaign without a digital dimension. However, goes further (Brown, 2013, p.9) by stating ”Digital PR is dead because all PR is digital”. As such, if all PR is now digital, and if all digital communication requires to be authentic for it to be successful, by default, does that mean that all PR now requires to be authentic? Arguably, yes.
I think of it like this – would I have a relationship with someone I didn’t trust? No. Would I bother interacting with someone with no integrity? No. Would I source information from someone who I knew was prone to concealing the whole story? No. Would I share news of my unfulfilling relationship experience through my own personal connections and contacts? Most likely. Would I utlimately disengage from such a non-fulfilling relationship? Yes, definitely. Wouldn’t you?
I would suggest that PR is in a period of transition as a direct result of the new communication age which is now upon us. As communication specialists, we now need to step up to the mark and embrace the call for greater authenticity – otherwise what role will be left for PR?
OTHER USEFUL LINKS ON AUTHENTIC DIGITAL COMMUNICATION:
Brown, R. (2013). Digital PR is dead: Social goes mainstream. In Brown, R. & Waddington, S. (ed.). (2013). Share this too: More social media solutions for PR professionals (pp. 4-9). Chichester: Wiley.
Burch, D. (2013). The shift to conversation: content, context and avoiding cheap talk. In Brown, R. & Waddington, S. (ed.). (2013). Share this too: More social media solutions for PR professionals (pp. 11-19). Chichester: Wiley.