It’s not easy to say exactly when public relations began. Some historians assert that it was in Victorian England or possibly Ancient Greece. What we know for sure though: digital and technological advances have made PR a dynamic, interesting sector that’s always evolving.
The dawn of public relations
During the war, Edward Bernays saw an opportunity to rebrand the wartime propaganda he had seen for peacetime. Modern public relations professionals have used psychology‘s advantages for shaping public opinion. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Bernays was the great-nephew of Sigmund Freud…
The first PR agency
Boston-born journalist Ivy Lee founded the first public relations firm, called “The Publicity Bureau,” in 1900. In 1903, after the publication of Ida Tarbell’s infamous smear piece “The History of the Standard Oil Company” in McClure’s Magazine, John Rockefeller recruited Lee to improve his reputation. It sparked a public uproar. Lee may have been the first to alter consumer behaviour by tapping into the question of mass mortality.
Innovation in the PR industry
Media relations has always played an important role in the PR sector’s strategic communication process to reach the general public. Early PR pros, like Bernays and Lee, recognised how important communication is in controlling public opinions.
However, they most likely did not force how the world of PR would move beyond traditional media relations. As new ways of working were presented, PR agencies have proven their invaluable impact in business.
Some of the inventions that have helped shape PR are:
- The telephone
- Long distance radio
- Motion picture camera
- The computer
- The Internet
- Social media
The new PR professionals
To communicate news, the first PR professionals had to run to their closest phone or fax machine. For the next news item, they would have to wait until the next day. This all changed in 1998, with the interaction of digital media and the Google launch.
People say that traditional platforms are declining to allow space for new channels that give audience news instantly. However, it is more likely the case that we are seeing an evolution of existing media outlets.
PR firms and professionals today use both earned and paid media to establish and maintain relationships between organisations and the public. The modern PR practitioner has to be aware of digital pr – the latest digital and communications changes to stay clued in and ensure their clients’ reputations are managed effectively.
They also have to constantly adapt to a constantly changing media landscape. According to PR:TECH, 59% of PR professionals believe that technology will be the main factor in creating industry change.
Traditional PR strategies vs now
A traditional PR media strategy would solely focus on newspapers, radio and TV. With the rise of digital PR however, modern PR focuses on newer channels such as online publications and websites, online news and social media.
There is a level of overlap between traditional and modern practices. Both aim to increase a brand’s visibility and create positive engagement with their audience. They also monitor and utilise public affairs and world events.
Traditional strategies involved media relations, press publications, media monitoring, events and sponsorship and community engagement. This is still relevant in modern times but has evolved as the media landscape has changed.
What content is still relevant?
Solid press contacts, relationship management and reputation management are still as relevant as ever. But advances in technology have changed how success is achieved and measured.
Content that was relevant back in the day is still just as relevant now. For example, a press release is still as ever in a PR professional’s toolkit, with most journalists seeing them as crucial. However, they must be well-written, accurate and targeted to the right reporter.
It’s safe to say that the digital revolution has been the biggest game changer for PR and marketing over time. Communication strategies have been heavily influenced by social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Social media is a brilliant way for agencies to track and understand public opinion on a variety of matters. It has also made it easier to build lasting relationships between brands and consumers, both of which can communicate in real-time. This allows PR campaigns to have a bigger impact than ever before.
Traditional press releases are still being written by PR professionals. But the way in which journalists digest and distribute content has changed for the better. Digital marketing techniques have become integral to public relations.
A crisis management story, for example, would still b created to help businesses position themselves favourably when things go wrong. However, a story like this would now be placed where it is most relevant and more likely to be read and shared quickly.
Content marketing has grown in importance in PR. But with so much content online these days, it is hard for brands to stand out. This is why it is crucial to develop good digital storytelling skills.
Telling human interest stories can help to humanise a brand and connect them to its audience. In fact, storytelling can make a brand up to 22 times more memorable to an audience.
A recent Google update has made online storytelling even more exciting for PR companies and content marketing teams. The news stories carousel at the top of the Google search engine results page features the most relevant news stories to a search.
More than 25% of all clicks are placed on the number one Google result. Therefore, PR teams can leverage modern digital content techniques and apply them to traditional storytelling. This will help get stories placed at the very top of the SERP.
Often the most effective content strategies involve link building to your owned assets, This includes getting hyperlinks from one website to your own. There are a few different ways to do this, including guest blogging on third-party websites.
Thought leadership involves framing one or more people in an organisation as an expert in a particular field. The PR sector has been doing this previously through corporate profiling but thought leadership strategies have evolved in a big way.
thought leadership is no longer just for large organisations. Smaller businesses and even start-ups are able to offer insight-led content.
Communications standards have often been unforgiving of slow movers, and this is truer now than ever before. Talk to us today and find out how we can boost your content and communication strategy [email protected]