Today’s corporate communication – both internal and external – give us a sense of living in a fast lane. We are surprised by the new possibilities of technology and astounded by the volatility of consumer behaviors and the “turnover” of opinion leaders. How does one communicate effectively in a world that is in constant flux?
I am well aware of the sheer complexity of this question. Public Relations today comprises a range of subfields as many individual industries require a tailor-made approach. My article is neither an exhaustive report nor an in-depth analysis. Rather, I wish to outline the general “atmosphere” of corporate PR and the key challenges faced by today’s communication experts.
1. How to harness technology?
Even today, some of the new possibilities offered by technology change the way we communicate. And in time its impact will grow even stronger. Available to companies today is an arsenal of tools that allows them to produce and publish information without engaging journalists. We can independently set up press centers, the conventional press release – although still widely in use – is no longer the only communications tool out there. The web, blogs, microblogs, social media networks and applications enable us to publish content more frequently and closer to real time, reaching our target audiences directly. That in itself carries great value. However, such diversity can also be disastrous. The littering of Twitter, Facebook, and other communication platforms with content that its authors deem vital but that audiences largely ignore, can be harmful. While new technologies help reach people and extend one’s range of influence, they can also potentially make for highly clichéd content. Protect your message from drowning in a flood of trivial, mass-written texts. Quality must come first – your priority should be to produce good, valuable and engaging stories that your audiences will find important.
2. How to talk to clients?
Many contemporary brands have developed a following of dedicated supporters and faithful users. The attention of such devotees is crucial given the potential benefits to companies. But attracting it is no easy feat – with short attention spans, consumers increasingly shun inauthentic marketing and readily identify phony corporate content when they see it. Critical consumers are a fact of life – we should not fool ourselves into believing we can easily woo them. Rather than forcing their preferences, we should talk and persuade – this is the best way to communicate with today’s clients. Every message sent to a customer should make it clear we expect feedback and are willing to discuss what is good and what is bad. By and large, customer experience will increasingly come front and center in any communication strategy.
3. How to win over opinion leaders?
More than ever before, modern stars are made on the Internet. The impact of YouTube videos, blog posts and Instagram photos can be greater than that of television commercials. Make sure to harness the powerful of Internet celebrities over opinions, trends and fads. Well-selected influencers willing to talk about our products and services are a communications priority. Make sure though not to artificially push your products or services where they don’t belong. Don’t expect bloggers to satisfy your expectations and uncritically cater to your desires. Both sides lay down the terms. It is key to find ways to reward opinion makers. The agencies that serve them may well help you in the process.
4. How to do PR instead of marketing?
These two fields have grown inseparable. The line between PR and marketing has blurred as the two spheres interweave. Display advertising is losing ground to engaging, valuable content and quality narratives. The stories we tell come in a variety of forms ranging from press articles to reports to in-depth reviews. Do not forget the omnipotent clients and their capacity to influence opinions. Everything has blended – content, writer-audience relations, pay and free channels, and communication methods. What I am describing is uncomfortable to many, forcing us to constantly learn new things and embrace new tools, especially that this process is unlikely to stop.
5. How to live with artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence has learned to write decent reports. While it still struggles with complex essay-type content, it is sure to hone its skills in time. Inevitably therefore, we will need to make extensive use of sophisticated technology. Machines will soon take over most of the work involved in planning, adjusting our range, selecting our target groups, disseminating our content, measuring effectiveness, and even talking to clients. One challenge of possible interest for communication people comes with the steady rise of voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. They can be used to propagate content, although we are still to learn how. The arsenal of AI tools of potential benefit to communications is set to grow bigger. Therefore PR people must stay abreast of technological advances.
6. Brand promotion in turbulent environment
The domination of politics in public space, social divisions and extremisms, global crises (such as Facebook privacy), and spontaneous wide-range campaigns (#meetoo) all create a space that a PR person needs to notice and respond to appropriately. By associating their brands with social events, companies may gain considerably provided they do so skillfully. I think that the ability to distinguish truly important events one can use to present a company or product from passing developments that are, in fact, negative, will be increasingly in demand.
7. How to manage budgets?
We live in an age of precise reporting. Therefore, measurement and monitoring tools will be standard equipment for any communication expert. One can safely presume that global spending on marketing and communication is set to grow. This global trend may well help experts convince their managements to spend more on interesting projects. However, they must accept the fact that communication spending will be measured more precisely and watched more strictly. The market is increasingly rife with tools for tracing the circulation of content and keeping close tabs on customer engagement and reactions. Such tools may help management boards assess the sensibility of your actions and strategies and, above all, control your expenditures. Measurement tools have become vital across the PR industry.