Communication has not changed, but the democratisation of information has changed. This also refers to the public relations (PR) processes: it has changed from active to co-active PR. The fundamental change is that PR shares its stories not only on traditional channels and tools but also through ‘advocates’, as stakeholders and consumers share information. They have a vote in PR.
PR has undergone significant transformations over the years due to technological advancements and communication channel shifts.
History research tells us that the term ‘public relations’ was probably first used in the US in the late 19th century. The US historian Scott Cutlip identified a Boston publicity agency, The Publicity Bureau, established in 1900 as the first public relations agency in that country. It started with business clients and gained the account for the telecommunications monopoly American Telephone & Telegraph in 1903. In Europe, Krupp set up a news bureau in Germany in 1893.
There are other timeline milestones in PR history:
1910: Marconi Co. sent out its first news release in the UK
1937: Finland saw the first public relations association, called “Propagandaliitto”
1955: the International Public Relations Association was founded
1989: public relations began to flourish in post-communist countries
The mid-90s: the internet spurred growth
2023: PR 4.0 has arrived.
Pr 4.0 involves a stronger emphasis on data analysis and measurement to evaluate the impact of PR efforts. PR professionals can leverage data from various sources to gain insights into audience behaviour, sentiment analysis, and campaign effectiveness, allowing for more targeted and effective communication strategies.
And most importantly, stakeholders are expecting to have a vote in PR. Storytelling via PR means broadcasting information to co-create a story in which consumers have a say and contribute to the brand story.
Here are the challenges for PR pros to execute PR 4.0 successfully:
- We need to earn our audience’s trust.
- We must look at the shifting of our PR strategies and check who is consuming the content.
- We also need to battle the challenge of fake news.
- We need to ensure that our clients communicate authentically.
- We need to build an authentic narrative.
- We need to learn to listen – much more than we did before.
- We need to understand that there are more requirements than before to get the audience on the sharing, liking or re-posting journey.
- We need a stronger emphasis on measurement and data analysis to evaluate our PR efforts’ impact.
- We all know the impact of unpaid media. With the availability of abundant data, we need to tailor our content and messages to the audiences. Distributing media releases to hundreds of journalists will no longer have the same impact as personalised communication.
- We need to incorporate virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and immersive experiences to create memorable and engaging PR campaigns, as these technologies have the potential to enhance storytelling and audience engagement.
Let’s embrace PR 4.0. This is the future of PR.
(*Source: Bournemouth University)