A Google search for the term "is PR dead?" will present you with so many think-pieces declaring the terminal decline of the PR industry that you'll be left wondering whether it's time to start thinking about alternative careers.
The argument goes that conventional media relations work is no longer important, because online influencers have replaced journalists, and social media has replaced editorial media. Neither of these points stands up to scrutiny, and there are a lot of very good reasons why the skill set of PR professionals remains an important component of the marketing mix.
If anything, PR skills are more valuable than ever, and at Meltwater we see a need for businesses to invest more in PR and restructure the roles of their senior PR executives to take on broader responsibilities.
Check out Meltwater’s new PR in the Age of Influence report which outlines how some of these skills can be applied cross-functionally.
Influencers Have Not Replaced Journalists
There's no denying that trust in mainstream media has fallen in recent years. Nevertheless, according to the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer, the public trusts traditional media more than social media. In fact, social is losing ground as a trusted source of information.
Whatever line of business you work in, coverage on the BBC, the New York Times, or a respected vertical industry trade publication will always be highly impactful. The skills required to deliver that kind of media interest remain valuable.
Influencers offer a new way to reach audiences, which is complementary to conventional media relations rather than replacing it.
Social Media Isn't the Same as Editorial Media
Newspapers, broadcast, trade, and niche interest publications, are all produced by skilled journalists, providing audiences with expert insight and perspective. Much as we'd like to have our audience take our word for everything we publish on our branded social channels, disseminating our messages through conventional media adds a level of credibility that comes with editorial independence.
While owned social media channels are powerful tools for communicating directly with your audience, independent editorial endorsement still holds a lot of power for brands. The media can still lend weight to your arguments if you're trying to win over public opinion.
What's Old is New Again
The marketing industry can be fickle, always jumping on the next big trend, chasing new tactics and channels, but we shouldn't be so quick to write off proven approaches.
Not only is conventional PR still highly relevant, we believe the core skills of PR professionals are a perfect fit for many of the new tactics driven by social media and online influencers.
● Social media community management - communicating directly with the public through owned social channels is PR in its purest form. It requires strong communication and storytelling skills.
● Influencer marketing - while online influencers often work differently from journalists, the skills of relationship building and placing stories with them transfer well from old-school PR.
● Content marketing - the rise of owned social channels has created an insatiable demand for original, quality content within brands. Who better to plan and create it than PR professionals? They are the masters of storytelling.
● Newsjacking/Viral Marketing - a good viral tweet is the holy grail for social media managers. PR people are experts at spotting trends in the news and crafting stories that tap into them.
● Search Engine Optimization - SEO is about persuading high-authority websites to write about your business and link to your website. PR execs were doing this before SEO even existed!
We've produced a deep-dive report on how traditional PR skills are at the heart of modern digital marketing. You can read it here.
Lance Concannon is a member of the corporate marketing team at Meltwater. Prior to joining the company in 2015 he spent ten years consulting in a number of PR agencies for blue chip clients, and before that he worked as a technology journalist.