What does the modern PR professional look like in 2019?

It is time for PR pros to upskill and improve their understanding of digital marketing in order to survive as an industry.

Time to skill-up if you want to make the cut, argues Fran Griffin
Time to skill-up if you want to make the cut, argues Fran Griffin

I think it’s fair to say PR doesn’t quite look how it did back when I studied it in my degree six years ago.

The number one job question I often hear from friends and family is: "What does public relations involve?" It is a question I ask myself frequently, more so than ever in the last year or two.

Digital is embedded now, and has completely changed the way brands operate, and how their audience and consumers search for and respond to them. And naturally, as a result, it has changed our PR tactics and what we view as ‘success’.

How has this then affected the skillset required for a modern PR? To be effective in 2019, PRs really need to grasp wider digital marketing skills.

SEO very much feeds and drives PR activity, with keywords and user search trends, for example.

A data-driven approach to content creation is critical - PRs need to pitch stories that are both relevant to their respective readers, and the brand’s audience.

This content needs to fit in contextually with a brand’s wider voice so that resulting coverage links build authority on topics and consequently higher rankings - to equal results for a client.

Traditional and smaller boutique agencies could potentially reduce in numbers as PR professionals seek new roles that allow them to diversify and upskill.

Fran Griffin, digital PR specialist at Honcho

Anyone in PR who doesn’t understand E-A-T value (how Google views website content quality based on its Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), domain authority, trust flow, or Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking, will likely be left behind and even worse, disconnect from their clients’ strategies and goals, and risk losing them.

Traditional and smaller boutique agencies could potentially reduce in numbers as PR professionals seek new roles that allow them to diversify and upskill.

It would be a struggle for smaller agencies to invest in these skillsets or compete with a full-service agency for example.

Every other marketing tactic holds tangible reporting metrics.

PR has always had a struggling grey area on this topic and instead we traditionally find ourselves reporting on number of coverage hits, circulation, and web traffic.

This holds little value to a client who, bottom line, wants to know how this improves search rankings, sale conversions and authoritative links.

Coverage for coverage’s sake, and campaigns for campaigns’ sake are both worthless to a brand.
Exposure in the right media, at the right time, to the right audience is everything.

This is where digital PR is worth its weight in gold in the traditional vs digital PR agency debate.

Virtually everything online is trackable. Brands can analyse customers’ habits and intent and it gives them insights and learnings.

Exposure and coverage in newspapers and magazines in silo is ineffective - podcasts, videos, articles with backlinks - these all hold much more value.

Both traditional and digital PR roles can have a strong future.

Those that seek to upskill will be able to add a new context and dimension to strategies and message targeting.

If more PR professionals consider the bigger connected picture of digital marketing, the stronger as an industry we will become.

Fran Griffin is a digital PR specialist at Honcho

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