Can PR survive in an increasingly personalised world?

Marketing has got personal. From targeted ads stalking us across the websites we visit, to incredibly targeted mailings direct to our home, we're seeing an explosion of tailored communications from brands of all varieties.

The PR industry is well positioned to adopt a personalised approach, argues Ruth Kieran
The PR industry is well positioned to adopt a personalised approach, argues Ruth Kieran
The sophistication of the data and insight behind this personalisation means that, more often than not, they hit the spot.

And this ‘mass personalisation’ is set to become an every day reality; with 36% of consumers, according to research by Deloitte, saying they are interested in personalised products or services. 

In particular, millennials, who have of course ‘grown up’ around new technology, are even more interested, with 43% of 16-24 year olds cited as ‘attracted’ to personalised goods and services. 

And, as technology becomes more accurate and sophisticated, consumers are increasingly coming to expect brands to interact with them in a wholly personalised way, treating them as individuals and not simply as part of a consumer mass. 

But does this pose a problem, even a threat, to the PR industry which traditionally has taken a macro approach, communicating brand messages to (at best) a segmented audience, via a broad swathe of media? 

Can the PR industry compete, when our clients are fast moving their attention, and budgets, to this new space?

The industry is extremely well positioned to adopt a personalised approach.

Ruth Kieran, deputy managing director of Lexis

The reality, I believe, is that the industry is extremely well positioned to adopt a personalised approach.
We’re experts at tailoring a corporate or brand message in order to get specific ‘types’ of people to think, act and do something as a result of hearing, reading or seeing our message. 

While ‘traditional’ media relations is still a key string to our bow, the industry is evolving rapidly to ensure they reach audiences in a personalised way. 

‘PR’ campaigns and the agencies that produce them are doing this by embracing social, programmatic, digital and live experiences just as enthusiastically as their marketing counterparts. 

And now that we’re no longer constrained by a lack of a creative department, or digital specialists, the PR industry is increasingly able to deliver insight led, targetted campaigns and multi-layered content, such as interactive video alongside, allowing individuals to experience a brand’s content in different ways according to their preferences.

We also understand that there’s a wider remit to create a positive and broad reputational context, which though perhaps less overt, is no less important, than the one which sees a campaign activation forced unsolicited into a consumer’s social feed.

As a result, we are well positioned to advise and guide clients about how far personalisation should go in terms of brand reputation management. 

We know that both corporate and consumer communicators need to balance the desire to deal with their customers and stakeholders in a personal, and possibly less traditional way, with the requirement to maintain a strong brand integrity. 

So rather than being fearful, we must as PR practitioners embrace this new world and take a central, confident role in it. 

Ruth Kieran is deputy managing director of Lexis

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