How the demand for social media is changing the PR industry

Globally, social media is transforming how people communicate, which is having an enormous impact on the PR industry in India. For example, clients are demanding social media campaigns rather than traditional print and media campaigns. We discuss to what extent social PR is the new PR.

Are more clients going social?

According to Amrit Ahuja, Client Servicing Director India at MSL Group Asia, there is an increase in the number of companies looking for experts to manage their online presence. Amrit Ahuja says that there is a fast-growing trend for companies wanting to embed social and digital in their approach. Amrit Ahuja adds: “Either they want an integrated approach, where PR and digital are combined together, or they just want to go the digital way.”

Tarun Bansal, managing director of New Delhi agency Blue Pigeon Image Management, agrees with Amrit Ahuja about the increasing demand for social media, and especially that many clients are happy to focus solely on digital PR: “There are lot of successful brands who have opted only for social PR and advertising on social networking websites to create their brand visibility. Even the established brands are availing services of social PR from specialized agencies to place their communication digitally.”

Tarun Bansal goes on to say that spending on digital PR will inevitably increase in the future. Partly because the youth of India are such fans of social media. Tarun Bansal says: “India is a young country with over 50 per cent of the population below the age of 25. This segment is very much connected to the internet and offers a huge potential for brands to use social PR to strategically target their audience. The scope of social PR in India is definitely going to rise.”

Social media across the globe

Amrit Ahuja points out how social media is not just popular in India, but is a global phenomenon, with brands operating worldwide embracing it: “By the end of the decade there is an expectation that there will be 5 billion users online and that will be when the world will be truly digital. Online reputation management holds the key to building prominence, popularity and preference for your brand.”

There is more of a blend of traditional and social PR in India than many other countries, says Amrit Ahuja, because she says that traditional media still has prominence in India, unlike countries like the US and UK, where the numbers for print publications have dwindled. Tarun Bansal points out that although newspapers are a way to communicate to the masses, clients can now target particular audiences more effectively through using social media.

When it comes to looking at which sectors are keenest to embrace the social space, Amrit Ahuja and Tarun Bansal agree that a diverse range of companies are active on social media. However, Amrit Ahuja adds that many companies are failing to harness the full power of social media: “The crucial thing is to intergrate social across business functions, which only a few companies are doing now. A good example is the Van Heusen campaign, launched to identify the ten most fashionable professionals on LinkedIn, this was a great campaign to reach out to 20 million LinkedIn professionals.”

How do PR agencies need to restructure?

As demand for digital and social PR grows, agencies need to evolve. Amrit Ahuja says that it is important that agencies have digital expertise, and change how they recruit in the future, as the biggest change in agencies will be the kind of talent they hire and nurture: “The new-age PR professional will have to be a mix of ‘advertising’ and ‘management‘. The advertising streak will create great ideas for clients and the management streak will be able to guide clients on how PR can bring about a business impact. All this wrapped around with a streak of building relationships will create great PR professionals.”

Tarun Bansal adds that another way that agencies are changing is that they are developing special digital divisions: “A lot of agencies have opted to start a sister concern, their own digital PR agency. Others have a separate section of digital PR as a specialized wing in social media.”