Radical Shifts in Public Relations


Over the years—and especially over the course of the last two decades—public relations has rapidly evolved. Due to the massive evolution of the PR discipline, the roles and responsibilities of PR professionals have expanded significantly.

A recent Trendkite webinar that Sage Communications attended underscored this trend and analyzed the major shifts we are currently facing in the field of public relations.

The conference included sessions from numerous experts across the marketing communications industry. We put together our key takeaways from the webinar to highlight what we changes we can expect to impact our work as PR professionals.

Defining what PR encompasses these days requires a much broader definition than in the past.

What people think PR Pros do:

  • Public Relations

What PR Pros really do:

  • Investor Relations

  • Reputation Management

  • Crisis Comms

  • Content Marketing

  • Special Events

  • Internal Comms

  • Media Relations

  • Executive Comms

  • Influencer Relations

  • Social Media

  • SEO

All of this change has generated major shifts within the industry, including:

Metrics and Ad Value Equivalency

According to PRSA, advertising value equivalency (AVE) applies a dollar value to media coverage and allows PR practitioners to compare their results with advertising. Across the PR industry, professionals have consistently relied on this metric to bring value to the C-suite and the bottom line. But it’s a method that doesn't quite work.

Nielsen found that 92 percent of consumers trust earned media over all other communication vehicles combined. Because of the inherent trust associated with earned media, it is difficult to compare the value of media hits against advertising results.

When it comes to metrics reporting, PR pros are revamping the way that PR adds value to overall business goals. Measurements look at the web traffic generated by PR-driven content, the social amplification of media coverage and conversions from media hits. The new way of gauging metrics applies the impact of PR directly to the marketing funnel so that professionals at all levels can clearly see where earned media is making the most impact for the business.

A significant measurement of PR success is brand impact. This is measured by analyzing awareness, mindshare and reputation through various metrics, including headline mentions, featured coverage, share-of-voice and the sentiment of social amplification.

Takeaway: PR outcomes provide unparalleled value to an organization – highlighting that value is key.

Media Monitoring

Closely tied with metrics reporting, the ways PR pros are monitoring for media coverage is evolving. Gone are the days of securing a media hit and idly stand by until coverage appears.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, "Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been." In PR, media monitoring has become proactive. PR pros are relying on data derived from media monitoring to make more informed decisions when it comes to media outreach.

The media monitoring process now includes analyzing which messages resonate best with audiences, understanding what topics reporters are interested in, etc. Rather than serving as a rearview mirror for what you've accomplished, media monitoring is now an essential tool for informing your strategic PR plan.

Takeaway: Media monitoring is a multifaceted tool that adds value to your ongoing media relations strategy.

Press Releases and Media Pitching

Media isn't what it used to be. Today, there are five PR practitioners for every one reporter. As newsrooms continue to shrink, PR folks have to adapt the ways we get the attention of reporters.

We must be as direct as possible when addressing journalists. This requires PR pros to provide content that is relevant and helps drive clicks for the publication. This shift has significantly impacted the value of the press release.

SEO is driven by keywords and quality backlinks that are judged by the amount of traffic they garner. Press releases are unable to create quality backlinks, improve SEO or effectively reach targeted media. This isn't to say press releases are dead, but they aren't as effective as they once were. On the other hand, press releases are key when it comes to creating a timeline of organizational milestones and serving as assets for media outreach.

It is clear that PR has changed—and will continue to change. Technological, societal and industrial changes will further shift how PR operates. Sage Communications is committed to staying on top of the latest trends and topics facing the public relations industry so that we can better serve our current and future clients.

Interested in learning more about Sage? Contact Julie Murphy at jmurphy@aboutsage.com

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X-SageJim McIntyre