Public relations once consisted of writing an endless amount of press releases, compiling crisis communications plans and coming up with crafty PR events that would bring the public closer to the client. While these are still elements of the job, no one could have guessed the leaps and bounds PR would consistently make. New technology and social media platforms are making the world smaller, allowing people to connect to news in real time and transforming our lives into a constant strain for more.

In PR, we’ve always had to stay one step ahead of the game. Now that challenge is just a little bit harder.

What evolutions has the PR industry faced?

A new community of social influencers…

The blogging community has become an extremely valuable partner to public relations and marketing professionals. Blogs give a voice to the product or service we’ve been tasked with promoting and offer a personal touch to remind the consumer of the people behind the brand. Through blogs, our clients are able to foster more natural conversations and to talk to consumers in a more approachable way. We’re able to leverage new audiences and piggyback off the trust bloggers have established with the people who seek out their content.

Blogs also give consumers the ability to express their individual opinions with fellow bloggers and readers. Contributed pieces are penned on behalf of the seller and can be strategically placed in outlets to help reach a target audience and provide the writer the benefit of deciding exactly what content is published.

New channels…

Through the rise of social media and online content, PR professionals are continuously using new channels to distribute story angles to reach a client’s audience. Instead of emailing or even faxing a press release, they are now issued on a wire for any reporter or blogger to read at their own discretion. News breaks just as often on blogs as it does through more traditional channels. Phone calls have been replaced with private Facebook messages. With attention more fragmented than ever, PR professionals must reach media members through more creative avenues.

Even the most traditional of PR channels are seeing growth and evolution. PR professionals now have the added benefit of embedding links and multimedia into old-school press releases, making them more interactive, appealing and sharable. It’s the same tactic, slightly better.

Better stories…

There is now a much greater stress on storytelling. Social is a great way to share experiences, giving us freedom to post aestatically-pleasing photographs and videos to enhance our story and form a deeper connection with the customer. Social creates a two-way dialogue, letting us interact directly with the consumer by simply tweeting back or answering a comment on our Facebook wall. It adds a component of care and appreciation that was never experienced like this before. Sharing intimate accounts are memorable and consumers will relate back to them when making purchasing decisions and by keeping an eye on correlating stories we can trade ideas or build off others.

We are also utilizing social media platforms to connect with reporters and outlets before initially reaching out. By using tools like MuckRack we can research individual reporters, finding out their beats in order to connect with their actual interests. Because so many PR professionals are reaching out to the same reporters, it is important for us to only pitch to a reporter if we think it would be mutually beneficial. It’s not about us or the media outlet, it’s about the story we both have to tell. Platforms like HARO – “Help a Reporter Out” have completely altered communications lines, allowing reporters to reach out to PR professionals for pitches from specific experts. LinkedIn has been tremendously beneficial in connecting experts from different fields to help develop relationships and expand on ideas. Through LinkedIn searches, we’re able to not only quickly find the right person to contact at the organization, but to warm the waters by getting an introduction from a mutual connection.

Measuring our success…

Measurement tools to deliver analytics are continually important in gauging interactions. PR professionals keep a steady eye on brand mentions helping to target the right places to concentrate efforts. Google Analytics features reports on sales and conversions happening on your site but also details how people arrived on your site and how they are using it. By looking at the data we can see when a media placement has resulted in more visits to the site or when product sales can be tied to a contributed content piece. This helps guide our actions in the future, resulting in stronger efforts for clients.

In knowing how people engage we know how to improve to keep customers coming back. Determining what success looks like depends on who you ask, from sales numbers to interactions to the popularity of your brand experience. These search tools will only continue to grow stronger and more specific in coming years.

No matter what research is done in order to stay on top of things, there is no match for actually immersing yourself in PR. To be successful we must keep up with new trends but not lose sight of the original goal, to create and foster relationships both beneficial to the company and its consumers. Just because many of the tools have changed, the core goal and premise behind PR has not.