The relevance of PR in a digital world

Journalists no longer rely solely on press releases and spokespeople for news, instead following influencers and thought-leaders to get opinions.

Journalists no longer rely solely on press releases and spokespeople for news, instead following influencers and thought-leaders to get opinions.

Exactly how fast is the news-making cycle today?  I asked my friends and colleagues for opinions on “how PR has evolved” via Facebook, and “chaotically”, “always-on”, “unpredictably” and “intense” were among some of the top responses.

I experienced the frantic pace of the news cycle first-hand a couple of weeks ago. On my way to work I posted on Facebook about a new flat fare option launched by local taxi company ComfortDelGro. By 11am the same day, three interview requests have arrived via Facebook Messenger from different publications. By 2pm, all interviews had been completed on WhatsApp and my name appeared in the papers on the very next day. The whole thing took less than 24 hours.

Journalists no longer rely solely on press releases and spokesperson soundbites to write news, instead they are following influencers and thought-leaders to get opinions.

The infamous United Airline incident, for example, created an uproar and boycott in China and trended in the top news on Weibo, despite having happened in the US.

To fully unleash the benefits of a direct relationship between brand and consumer, the best PR talents should strike the balance between creating content that people actually want to read, listen to or watch, and providing what traditional journalism would consider “news.”

Instead of issuing a formal corporate announcement, why not consider launching a product or activation directly on Facebook Live? OCBC Bank recently launched its Stay True campaign using this method, where the bank’s Head of Consumer Financial Services was put through a lie detector test. The video has reviewed over 200,000 views to date.

Another example of digital technology enhancing PR is a revamp of online corporate newsrooms. Dynamic Newsroom is a combination of PR, content and digital, which is designed to drive engagement, not simply overload information. It takes the best of everything we know about media relations to more effectively connect brands with journalists.

However, this trend of digital and social convergence also poses certain threats.  In order to boost visibility and garner likes and shares, brands and citizen journalists have been tempted to use unethical techniques to make their content exciting or “viral”. Such fake news and clickbait headlines are detrimental to brand reputation and consumer trust.

With great power comes great responsibility. As the ability to earn credibility becomes even more important, PR is becoming even more relevant than ever as the most reliable voice.

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