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!