Somehow, trends, topics and making connections in social media ( PR Expanded ) sounds like it would take a lot more than 20 minutes to explain. However, I managed to share three big trends along with three new practices for PR professionals in an Expert Express Talk at the PRSA International Conference in Washington, DC ( #PRSAICON ). My goal for session was to challenge communicators and push the envelope with new roles and responsibilities, as a result of our continuously changing landscape.
Here are the THREE big trends that communications professionals need to pay attention to closely, as they sharpen their skills to handle 21st century communications:
- Embracing Disruptive Technologies: Social, Mobile, Cloud, and Sensors. The disruption is never-ending. It’s not that you want to solely focus on the technology. Instead, you want to understand and counsel businesses on why and how the public uses these technologies. We can’t afford to be reactive anymore. We have to proactively be ahead of what our companies need to know with respect to their audiences to build stronger relationships through communication. It sounds like a tall order but it takes a NO COMPLACENCY mindset. I can’t remember the last time I felt comfortable or complacent about technology. You’d have to go all the way back to the days of my early career when I was behind a typewriter and faxing news releases to newspaper editorial departments. There was always a chance of not be able to manage the message, but not to the extent we face today!
- Serving the global organization. You must think “global” in a number of ways. Knowing that communication has no borders and boundaries. Understanding diverse environments internally and externally. Working with speed, flexibility and accuracy outside of your normal communication zones. This extends beyond the four walls of your communications department in your company. And of course, you also realize the extended reach of social media with a network of networks and an audience of audiences. Where you think you’re communicating always goes so much farther than intended. You’re connecting and building relationships with people in different areas of the world. Doing your homework on different cultures and their customs is more necessary than ever. Even something as simple as saying, “Good Morning” on Twitter will set off a response of good afternoon, good evening and goodnight from your network.
- Keeping an eye on Data and Data Education. This is HUGE on a number of different levels. One of my best examples is from the early days of my career when I was an intern. Let’s go back to 1987. My SVP said, “If you want to build a relationship, then you have to think like a journalist.” We had a lot of financial clients, so I would read the office copies of Barron’s and Investor’s Business Daily and scan the office copies of The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal). I wanted to understand what was important to my journalist “friends” and needed to see how they reported on matters that affected our clients. Fast forward to 2014, data fuels their stories today. If journalists are learning about data journalism, then shouldn’t PR people be educated as well? Journalists are increasingly using data and PR people will be poised to offer interesting insights to them. There is no shortage of tools that can collect and filter information about your customers and market so you can creatively pitch to journalists to help them with their stories.
As a result of these three important trends, you have to shift or morph into new roles and responsibilities. I wrote the book about the eight new practices, but they too have EXPANDED. Each practice is expanding. Here are three roles that will help you with the three trends I’ve identified. They focus on Technology, Global Collaboration and the Data Education.
- So, you may already be familiar with what I call a “PR Tech Tester.” Experimenting with new resources, tools, platforms and various apps on your smartphone. Every week I continue to learn and tech test. It was Snapchat and Tumblr yesterday, and now it’s Ello and YikYak. However, today you have to be PR Tech Specialist, knowing why you should use these platforms, who is already there participating the most and what they like to do, how to engage your audiences appropriately and measure the engagement as well. You should be able to strategically recommend and incorporate new technologies into our planning long before someone asks you if you’re familiar with a particular resource. You’re there and you already know!
- You may already be familiar with the Internal Collaboration Generator, who is the professional who makes sure the team or department is connected via social media on the inside of the company. You already know the importance of internal communication and being collaborative. If everyone is on the same page internally, then think of how much better your external communications will be. No more emails that get lost in a black hole. Now, we have to be Global Collaborator. You need to work more globally within the organization, sharing, collaborating and innovating across departments, specializations, and businesses to create the external communication that transcends borders and boundaries. You have a responsibility to understand different cultures, to be more timely and flexible with our connections, as a result of more global communication.
- Education (my passion), whether it’s on a higher level (college and university) or it could be in our virtual classrooms mentoring younger professionals. Just keep your eye on data. That’s right, it’s the science part of what we do. Social media has exposed you to an explosion of data. It’s not someone else’s job anymore. At first, I labeled our new measurement practice, the “Master of the Metrics.” What did this mean? It was a PR wake up call for professionals to understand and use different types of metrics that were available through social media and how to report them. The goal was to match the metrics to the program objectives, knowing who would be interested in business metrics vs. community metrics. Of course, now you have to advance so that data education is not just about capturing metrics for your programs. It’s using data in PR to pitch journalists, know your markets better, comparing your PR data to other data in the organization seamlessly to better understand customer needs and issues, and the list goes on. I believe that being data educated will be in the physical classroom in our certification programs and will also appear in our social communities where we share and learn. We have now moved to PR Analytics Engineers, a new innovative practice that has morphed out of our use of data.
So now you have it … three trends and three new practices for you to embrace! So, ask yourself, are you ready for the Future of PR and to be a PR Tech Specialist, a Global Collaborator or a PR Analytics Engineer who leads PR into the Future?