24x7 PR - Is it sustainable?

PR has changed drastically in the last 5 years – just doing media outreach is no longer enough. At the same time, social media has altered the very nature of PR, converting the PR professional’s day into a high speed always on day – the 24x7 news cycle becomes the 24x7 PR cycle.

We take a peek into a typical day for PR professionals and find out what challenges they are dealing with and what skills they need to acquire to keep up the pace.

Social Media and PR

Increasingly journalists use social media content to make up their mind about whom and what topic to feature for their stories – making the social media content strategy very important.

It’s not surprising then that Neha Khetan, Account Manager, FoxyMoron Media Solutions, spends increasingly large amounts of time on social media. Neha says:In this age of 24/7 news culture, news breaks in 140 characters first, before anywhere else. Social media has involuntarily become an imperative part of our lives. Especially communication professionals who have to be alert, on their toes and be updated with what’s happening around the world. We need to be present online and across social media forums at least as silent observers to listen to on-going conversations, if not active. We can also be active participants and engage directly with peers consumers online.”

Neha adds that: “The current situation also demands being available and online 24/7. There is a constant need for innovation, exchange of ideas and thinking about the bigger picture. You need to come up with the ‘big idea’ before your competition can think of it or something different. We could be interacting with a journalist on the phone or on social media but it needs to be done in two different ways because of the two different mediums.”

Bengaluru based Alok Dash, a consultant at a leading PR agency also agrees that being online is important: “Trade media Journalists have started posting story opportunities on Facebook - Media Movements page. I follow key journalists relevant to my clients via Twitter.”

Neha says that 5 years ago there was a clear distinction about the expectations from PR and there was less pressure. “We were communicating only with the media. Now the difference is that we are talking to a larger set of audiences using different tools and platforms. WSe are communicating with the world on behalf of the brand. So a communication professional’s behaviour on social media, be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn is as important and equally monitored.”

Are skills matching the demands of the job?

At the larger PR agencies there is some effort to impart training and skills. Alok says that: “larger multinational PR agencies have started providing training sessions via webinars, PowerPoint presentations on PR campaigns, performance management, time management skills, and global best practices etc. These add value to PR professionals across levels as they get exposed to different tools and campaigns by their colleagues elsewhere in the world.”

Alok points out that: “Skill enhancement in PR is primarily self-driven and learnt on the job. There are in-house social media platforms wherein employees can reach out for help or inputs from their colleagues globally and share learnings. Performance management systems and processes are also being automated at leading agencies so that employees can get feedback throughout the year and can assess their performance more objectively.”

Neha agrees that the 24X7 PR day has definitely had an impact on work culture and there is a need to upgrade skills constantly as the situation demands a fast pace with changing trends. Neha feels that everything is moving to digital – advertising to digital media advertising, marketing to social media marketing and now public relations to digital PR.

Neha says:I have been encouraging my team to get online on Twitter, even if it is only to observe and listen to what people are talking about. It’s a great way to keep a track of what is happening in the industry, on-going conversations and to engage with influencers.”

Many PR professionals admit that the level of training is not consistent enough for them to catch up with the skill sets needed, especially with regards to social media. Even as the integrated vs. specialist argument rages on, today’s PR professional needs support and structures to organise their work day to deal with the 24x7 PR cycle. In TV journalism, a day is very well structured in spite of the chaos of daily reporting; perhaps it’s time for PR to do the same.

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