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How PR works in the digital age

Can you remember what life was like before Skype, omnichannel shopping and Twitter? When we had to walk to the shop to buy stuff, queue to use a payphone and handwrite our letters? Perish the thought. Thankfully, the internet has made our lives so much easier. Now, we can pretty much do anything we want at the click of a button.

Our personal lives have changed forever. But so has the business world. Technological advances, social media, and the arrival of real-time information have changed the makeup of many industries: Journalism is just one of them.

So what are the changes? 

The digital age, with its smart phones and tablets has transformed how we find, consume, and share information. We are used to (and expect) news to be instantaneous, relevant and engaging. Our on-demand culture has forced media outlets to change the way they work, in order to satisfy our appetite for rich visuals, mobile-friendly design, and up-to-the minute reporting.

How are they doing this?

For one thing, news outlets have moved away from the traditional model of publishing one edition of a newspaper a day or broadcasting one daily news programme. Today, news is reported as a constant stream of conversation – think BBC News, featuring stories from around the globe. Behind the scenes the BBC’s international news teams are in constant communication on chat apps such as Slack and Whatsapp, to cover news across time zones. And they have teams listening to social media chatter – monitoring Twitter, Google News alerts, and the newsroom’s other notification systems – for rumblings of potential stories. As a result, news is announced as it happens, wherever in the world it happens.

Newsrooms are also experimenting with new channels of communication. To cater for the mobile market, many are turning to publications such as Quartz, a digital news site with a mobile-first focus on social distribution, enewsletters, and high quality ads, to deliver news to the technologically-savvy consumer.

What does all this mean for PR?

The new on-demand model of journalism is brilliant for consumers, but from a PR point of view, it demands a different approach.

So, let’s look at what you need to know when pitching to journalists in the digital age:

Deadlines are, erm, dead

Journalism is now a steady feed of headlines. Because so many publications are online, the notion of a deadline only applies to print media (most of the time). Websites and emagazines are constantly updating their content.

Image is everything

Digital media is highly visual. In the olden days, you only had to think about camera-worthy segments when you were preparing for a TV pitch. Now, because the web is filled with photos, video and infographics, you need to up the ante with your visuals

Content is more than text in the digital world, so your campaign should include multimedia elements to engage the user. Toyota and T-Mobile make good use of multimedia in their online newsrooms, which serve multiple professional and consumer audiences well

Relationships are key

As with offline PR, relationships are key to digital PR success. But while traditional media is rooted in relationships with journalists, digital means you need to cast your net much wider, as bloggers, vloggers and even audio publishers are also potential targets for your digital PR campaign. In the beauty sector for example, digital PR rules. Because of the sheer reach and influence of bloggers such as Zoella and PixiWoo, increasingly, it’s the online channels that drive awareness and sales. So make sure you research the best fit for your product, and start cultivating a personal relationship with those key influencers.

Be sociable

Bear in mind that bloggers, vloggers and digital content creators regularly turn to social media to find news sources, quotes, visuals and content. So you can’t afford to neglect your social pages. If you prove your brand to be a credible and trustworthy source of content online, bloggers and journalists will come back for more. At that point, you can start to build a relationship with them.

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