Comms is changing….but have you?

For anyone who’s worked in media and communications over the last ten years, you’d have see the monumental way our industry has changed in the way we craft, share and support the storytelling capabilities of the brands and organisations we represent. Looking back, my first PR roles in the early noughties saw me stuffing envelopes with media releases, faxing out news announcements or mailing out newsletters, often with the key goal of securing media coverage. We understood the power of influencer endorsement (in this case media) to build brands and drive desire for a clients product or service. Contrast that with today’s PR toolkit of social media and community management, a 24/7 newscycle, branded content and more. We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Newspaper circulations are dropping. Magazines are closing. Kids are watching YouTube and discovering a new type of celebrity that they can actually engage with, send messages to see the results of those interactions in real time rather than watching TV. Traditional media is certainly not dead, but there’s a new world order that’s changing the way both young and older audiences find and engage with media.

YouTube’s “Introducing Gen C” speaks of a new breed of media consumers that “care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community. It’s not an age group; it’s an attitude and mindset”. The new currency for PR practitioners and brands is conversation – The ability to connect and interact with an audience, delivering a real-time feedback loop on brand messages, points of view, people and products.

This “Gen C” wants to interact with the brands they buy and businesses they engage, and will happily provide feedback on the experience via all manner of platforms and social networks. Generation C is defined not by age or ethnicity, but of a culture that values and engages in online conversations and communities to discover new ideas, share opinions and be entertained. Habitually they go to the web to connect, collaborate and converse with friends and communities. For PR this means becoming a better listener and when appropriate, part of the conversation.

Richard Edelman, CEO of global PR firm Edelman PR captures this sentiment nicely when he states that companies are now shifting to a position of being “part of the conversation” rather than “owning the discussion”. Today’s brand health check could cover all manner of platforms – from YouTube and Instagram, to online news and blogs in a Google search – to discover what stories and people are building communities and identities around your brand. No longer do you “control” the messages around your brand as a PR practitioner; instead you listen and engage with these new voices to build communities and drive advocacy.

How has your job changed with the shift from traditional to more social and new media engagement strategies? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!


8 responses to “Comms is changing….but have you?

  1. For many years, to get a gauge on what media was saying about your company, your brands, your competitors or your industry generally, you waited for the morning email from media monitoring. Those days have certainly gone. These days you need to be aware not only what the traditional media is saying but also what is being posted on social media. Having said that, keeping up with social media commentary and responding in a timely manner can be a full time job. Not too many companies can afford the luxury of full time staff for this role. I’ll be interested to see if the scope of comms roles change in future where there will be a requirement for such a person in a corporate comms team.

  2. Hi Sarah – a great approach to this topic for many of us. While I know my days are numbered in taking on social media responsibilities for the organisation I work in, given the generational differences of our members to that of Generation C, it is still surprising how we mange to still converse with our major audiences! While the traditional media doesn’t command the presence it once did, social media hasn’t been quite as invasive as we all imagine, and not every one is keen to adopt it, or even acknowledge its existence.

  3. I worked in the law from 2002-2009 when social media was still a baby (or maybe an infant). Now though I read about how social is being used for client communication – something that just sounds too out there when compared to my experience of simply phone calls and emails. Obviously marketing is a significant opportunity also –

    Insofar as people not being keen to adopt social media or acknowledge it’s existence as mentioned by Ian, I think it’s a ‘do or die’ situation. I also disagree that it hasn’t been all that invasive generally (although I do acknowledge that the invasiveness will vary from person to person) – social media is on our phones, tablets, computers, TVs, fridges, watches, and to an extent also radio and print. As of the last half of 2013 it’s all “Find us on…”, hashtag that and follow this and I think it’s only going to become more so.

  4. Where to start. The challenge had always been figuring out what is the core message and in which media does it make the most sense to invest an organisation’s social capital and build a community within that medium. Personally more than any other time it feels like one needs to be both technologically curious as well as the experience in creating content that engage. On top of this, there is also a greater need to be able to report back on what social media brings back to the organisation. At times it’s not a matter about not having enough data, but interpreting what it all means in relations to the organisation. What does “like” mean in the grand scheme of things after all?

  5. Thanks all for your comments! Both comforting and really interesting to hear that we’ve all gone through the challenges (and opportunities) this evolution in comms has provided. For a number of organisations, the challenge in allocating resources to social is proving the business value of engaging in the space, when there is often as much (if not more) noise as their is valuable conversations. Digital skillsets are also something businesses and brands are finding a challenge to find and develop, so its as much a challenge finding comms leaders that understand the social/digital opportunity, as it is finding the right people to lead the implementation and management of social media and engagement strategies. I think we work in a really exciting time and I’m enjoying the challenge of developing my skillset to meet the demands of this new market.

    • Lots coming up on Conversation by Design – We’re starting PR people profiles this week, so follow and join in the discussion. We’ll be covering all aspects of the new skillsets required for PRs to survive and thrive in a digitally connected world. Thanks for checking in!

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