We need a different 'PR' to help find the holy grail of genuine engagement

Setting aside the few bad apples hurting the perception of the multi-billion-pound PR industry with their unscrupulous behaviour and scandals, there are in fact bigger challenges for us to overcome.

PR isn't dead; it just needs a radical rethink, says Anthony Noun
PR isn't dead; it just needs a radical rethink, says Anthony Noun

Tried-and-tested PR is not dead or on a life support machine, rather it is losing its shine and efficacy.

It’s premature to predict the fall of the PR empire as some commentators morosely declare, yet neither is it wise to stick your head in the sand, refusing to see that the world has changed.

Shifting sands is the new norm, we live in uncertain times.

In an age of disbelief, power and influence we are moving away from traditional media, figureheads and brands, towards a plethora of decentralised and entangled 'actors'.

Look no further than Edeleman’s own Trust Barometer to see a seemingly unstoppable downward trend.

Brands now have to make themselves heard in ever-decreasing media space, a space that is also shared with daily Brexit updates and Trump 'news'.

Everything around us is being disrupted - how we work, live, shop, socialise, communicate and travel.

Above all, we have a new type of human, powered by technology.

Every day, millions of gigabytes of content is created and propagated across multiple channels.

Now anyone can create their own brand and 'prosumers' are on the rise.

Today a gaming video posted by a vlogger is more popular than the most watched TV programme and a Scottish teenager can create a worldwide movement by simply blogging about her school dinners.

Conventional brand storytelling is now competing with more authentic, engaging and co-creational stories told by individuals, sometimes more successfully than a multi-million-pound brand campaign.

Creating content, no matter how appealing, does not guarantee a captive audience. And even then, they can easily tune you out with a click of a button.

So why do we still hear captains of the PR industry advising us from the pulpits to keep on pushing that message, that you can never communicate too much and always in the parlance of the average Mr or Mrs Smith?

Why are organisations still placing being in control, on-brand and on-message above being relevant and interesting?

Why is it that PR campaigns are still measured in column inches? All in an age where most of us are switching off from traditional media?

Too much innovation in our industry is focused on tinkering around the edges.

If the collaboration movement in the creative industries and co-production in public services has taught us anything it is that people want to engage with other people to make stuff and co-create products, services, art and music.

There is a genuine opportunity to rethink how organisations communicate with people and an increasing need for PR pros to push forward with a new approach that bridges the gap between people and brands.

We need to create a new PR territory, unafraid to integrate people into the heart of communications, where brands can lose control and gain something more valuable – the holy grail of genuine engagement.

Anthony Noun is co-creator of Brægen.co

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