The evolution of PR is clear but not easy

Depending on how you define PR, it's either under pressure or about to enter a golden age. The reality is probably both.

Sandy Purewal: PR needs to evolve in people's minds
Sandy Purewal: PR needs to evolve in people's minds
PR fundamentals will never change but progress is critical to prove PR's place in this brave new world. 

These are obviously days of big change; agile businesses, disruptive models, real-time marketing… and technology is the driver. 

To evolve, PR needs to embrace technology, widen its aspirations and be brave. The danger is being blind or (more likely) overconfident about what value PR offers. 

Agencies have to get even more integrated, more lateral in their thinking and hungrier for budgets traditionally earmarked for the Mad Men. 

If PR managers can also push for core PR skills to be at the heart of marketing campaigns, the future of PR can be very bright with the commercials to prove it.

Not so long ago, PR and marketing used to be about gut feel – "I know it is going well because we’re getting in the newspapers, and sales seem good".

However, with technology we can now track, code and benchmark our way to know how many sales leads, enquiries, click-throughs and downloads have happened as a result of our campaigns. 

A ‘brand to sales’ approach where brand awareness directly correlates to what people actually buy gives PR real power.

There are a few practical ways to safeguard the PR team through development of skills:

Cracking the code – know the basics of HTML
Coding is the future, and you can expand your knowledge of the basics by using free courses online. It takes roughly seven hours, and you will feel more empowered to make simple edits.

Turning up the tech – take social expertise to the next level
If you're not measuring the ROI of your online efforts using all the free tools out there, where have you been? There's an embarrassment of tech out there than to rank shares, retweets, likes, profiling top social influencers etc. The challenge is to harness the right tech to get the best results for you.

Analytics-as-you-go – get savvy 
While marketing teams might be more comfortable with analytics, there's an obvious benefit for PRs to get savvy with this. Think ‘demand funnel’ and dive in. There's no shortage of free tools, or free courses from the likes of Google, so there’s really no excuse for us not to push the boundaries of measure and show the value of our work.

The future is mental 
This all sounds obvious but if everyone was doing it, we wouldn't be talking about the evolution of PR. The biggest evolution for PR needs to take place in our heads and the rest will follow. 

If we can combine a 'think big' mindset, the ‘art of the brand’ with the ‘science of sales’, we have a winning formula to future-proof PR.

If we can't, we can look forward to big bucks and big influence passing us by.

Your call.

Sandy Purewal is executive chairman of Octopus Group

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