Digital and social media are in the genes of PR professionals

Circa 2000: Those famous words of industry veterans, in the air conditioned auditorium of Xavier Institute of Communications, are still fresh in my mind… just like the Subway sandwiches. “Public Relations is strategic management function, though many still treat it like mass communication’s step child. Future PRactitioners like you’ll have to raise the bar”.

Circa 2004: And then the PR pros were confronted with the greatest ego-boosting bible ever written – The Fall of Advertising and Rise of PR, that famously hailed public relations as the marketing tool of the future.

Circa 2012: Second edition of TFM&A in Mumbai and as I walked out of the venue at the end of day 2, I couldn’t help but ponder over the 3-day agenda of the conference. It’s an amazing platform to discuss, debate and share new technology trends & predictions in marketing and advertising. But with most speakers decoding digital marketing and demystifying social media, just one question in my mind stuck with Fevicol – why no PR representation?

(Incidentally, I was given a providential opportunity to speak at TFM&A in 2011 on “Social Media in a PR-ed World”. Admittedly, it took me a while to set the context about what “PR guys” do for 8-10 hours in a day. )

It was just a random thought. I am well aware of several new platforms that have emerged to discuss social media / digital implications to businesses, where “PR guys” are represented too. But the larger question remains… “Do brands / companies / marketers still wonder how a “PR guy” can understand, consult and implement social media campaigns?’

Some Social / Digital buzzwords, phrases & application So why is social in PR pros’ blood?
Social / digital is all about engaging audiences and achieving business goals Check out this age old definition of PR by Ivy Lee and Edward Louis Bernays in 1900s – “a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures, and interests of an organization… followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”
Digital / social truly helps in shaping opinions and building positive goodwill PR = perception and reputation management. From Insights to Assessment, we manage it all.
Digital / social is all about integrated approach. Media, events, internal, external, electronic, online –a PR guy has been there, integrated that. (Text100 India’s recent Jaipur off site – Textravaganza was dedicated to digital and integrated approach to communication campaigns).
Social / digital is not about technology, but about sociology and engagement. As we proudly state at Text100, we are not geeks but communicators. We understand all nuances communication – third party endorsements, influencer mapping, media, etc. A PR guy is a trained communication sociologist!
Digital / social involves specialized functions like blogger relations PR guys have been managing blogger relations since eons. Text100 India has itself implemented several blogger campaigns for global brands as way back since 1996.
SEO is dead, Social is all about third party. PR guys have mastered the art of third party endorsements. In fact, PR by definition differentiates itself from advertising on this parameter (paid vs earned).
In social / digital, content is KING! If content is King, PR guys are king makers by default. Be it press releases, technical papers, employee communication, CEO speeches – we’ve written it all
Digital is about measurement A “PR guy” understands measurement better than most. Traditionally, every campaign is assessed on quantitative and qualitative parameters in great detail
Digital / social helps gauge audience reactions that feeds into product innovation and marketing strategies In 1978 Public Relations Associations defined the field as “the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.” PR thrives on research and intelligence.
Digital / social is an excellent tool to manage a crisis Historically, PR has been leveraged effectively as the primary vehicle to pre-empt, mitigate and prevent crisis situations. PR guys are the true crisis communication experts.

This is just the tip of the PR guy’s social skill iceberg. Just speak to any Textie and you will be surprised with the social / digital orientation, knowledge and experience. it’s not a coincidence that Text100’s articulated vision proclaims “shaping conversations in the digital age and beyond”. A PR guy understands conversations, that is at the core of a digital / social media campaign.

Circa 2013: I sincerely hope the next edition of the fabulous event will be rechristened “TFMA&P”, were P will proudly stand for PR.

As a near-worshipper of the world’s most popular Indian actor, I end my post with a humble tribute to the great Amitabh Bachchan who turned 70 today. An inspired quote from his blockbuster classic “Namak Halaal”. “You see digital sir… PR people can talk social, walk social, laugh social, run social and think social. Coz social is a very funny language that we speak day in and day out. Enough spoken… now it’s time for digital Textravaganza!