The PR skill revolution: Are you up to date?

While not everyone might agree on what value public relations might bring to a brand or client and whether social media competes with or actually complements traditional PR, there are a few perspectives that PR professionals can no longer turn a blind eye to.

Yes, the game has changed and while the role of PR has evolved, the PR professional (in a lot of cases) has not. What you learnt in PR class may have changed by the time you graduate and so would the way people choose to consume media. One can even argue the need for a formal press conference in an age where time is short and options are aplenty. Here are a few things that agencies and teams need to consider.

Urban audiences have evolved to consuming media through multiple outlets while companies are able to engage with consumers through various channels, be it liking a post on Facebook or following a company Twitter handle. Social media is here to stay. What the new age PR professional needs is active research on consumers, understanding what clicks and who the opinion makers are (for the particular target group) while understanding how to use analytics to see levels of consumer involvement with a brand. In short, one needs to think like a true marketer if one has to be effective at PR.

While the traditional role of PR has been pushing content in the right hands, PR executives now also have the dual responsibility of creating relevant content. It is noteworthy that maintaining relations with journalists and media channels lies at the heart of the PR manager’s role, the quality and relevance of content reaching out to the press is now even more important. In short, content is the new king. So if social media fanatics contest that new age PR executives are more of content marketers, the perspective does hold weight. For once you have figured out how to reach out your audience, continuously coming up with relevant content for your audience is the next step. Agreed it’s not the only thing, but it’s a part you cannot ignore any longer.

From Facebook pages and twitter handles to blogs and Pinterest, companies today have a host of platforms they can use to reach their consumers. While this means an increase in interaction levels, it also means a certain increase in risk for a brand /client. One wrong comment or context can turn into a PR nightmare and unless you know how to react, this can be one viral campaign you wish you never had to see. The need of the hour would involve having a crisis management plan and escalation matrix in place. Regular audits of the content going out and ensuring that a social media policy is in place is also another way to protect client interests. Why else would they need you?

How can your company and team adapt to these changes?

With these changes in the PR industry and evolution of the role of a PR professional, it is time for agencies to look at ways to adapt and build the right talent that can effectively meet and manage client expectations. Here are a few things that PR agencies must consider. The onus of understanding and adapting to these changes lies with both the recruiter and the talent being recruited.

Look within: It is time for you as an agency to look within and analyse the kind of work that people are currently involved in. This will give you an idea of where you are and form the base for a roadmap for the future. Invest in your people for they drive your business.

Clarify roles: Ensure that everyone in the team know exactly what is expected out of them. This includes the bit on adapting to changes in consumer preferences, thinking like a marketer and embracing media to the fullest extent possible.

Make work fun and interesting: PR, in a lot of ways, is a mind-boggling (and sometimes thankless) job. Like any other role, there are burn-outs and days when you could simply throw an elephant at anyone you meet. Research shows that taking action and making fun a priority in the work place, organisations can excel in areas where challenges and problems may have been the norm. So remember to make work fun and interesting. Why? Well, ask your team why not?

Remember that ‘pay’ isn’t everything: Numerous studies have shown that when it comes to managing a young a vibrant workforce (more so in the case of PR), career enhancement and learning while on the job precede ‘base pay’. From an agency’s perspective, focusing on these key areas also acts as a means to retain and attract talented employees to the workplace.

Share and embrace learning: People don’t just want a job. They want to be good at it and be known for the work they put out. As an agency, you could have a chunk of people who may not fully understand the way new age media is consumed. It is important to bridge the gaps in the learning curve. It is not an easy process. It is not about doing a two day training program but rather, making ‘constant learning’ a part of our DNA. Remember that you are only as good and relevant as your team.

Asif Upadhye is the CFO at Never Grow Up and a Director at Yellow Seed Content Solutions.

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