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Digital PR


In several ways, Digital PR is a misnomer. It mischaracterizes what is better labeled ‘social media.’ At its roots, PR or Public Relations is the management of an organisation or person’s relationships with - *drum roll - the public. In this purest sense, PR is about public image and perception, and what messages to communicate, and who to communicate with, to cultivate a desired public outcome - usually to influence or persuade.

Now just for a second, think about how science-fiction often serves up a post-apocalyptic world, where electric power is gone. And with that, so goes digital and advanced technologies. You cannot charge up your iPhone, which isn’t as big an issue when there are no more satellite towers to transmit data signals. That in turn is no biggie when you realise there are no more working power grids.

In this world, would the concept of PR as we understand it be different? We would then revert to the 18th century, a paper society, where communication channels are limited to traditional non-digital ones. The fact that the ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote his theories of rhetoric on a clay tablet instead of an iPad doesn’t make their societies any more or less different than ours for the purpose of persuasion.

PR hence doesn’t discriminate across touch-points, but look at appropriate channels and proceed accordingly, because the fundamental principles of communication, messaging, and engagement remains. Online PR is likely a better term, emphasizing the specific online mediums and how the practitioner is expected to understand the emerging technologies. In view of how marketing communications disciplines are integrating, this label is limiting of course. Online engagement or digital marketing might then be more apt, as the trend goes towards the management of earned, owned, and paid online media editorial towards a PR outcome.

Of course this is the OCD and secret purist in me speaking. As a recruiter I observe the fair and increasing interest from hiring managers and candidates who want more digital PR. And naturally I inquire more, and often see that they mean primarily online engagement and editorial. Having said so, it is a reality that the PR guys are taking the lead in directing more digital activity (what the digital guys look at in for instance, mobile app, SEO, SEM....). This is a good sign of new and exciting trends in the industry and hopefully to more interesting opportunities which help improve the role of PR practitioners.

And to sign-off, here's a shameless "digital" call-to-action: I'm always on the look-out for guys who have done more online PR (social media, community management) and also for individuals who don't necessarily come up from a PR background, but perhaps via advertising or creative routes and are looking for new opportunities....