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Why the PR model is dying

Public Relations (PR) as we know it has become irrelevant. Its cause of death: The evolution of content creation.

The rise of social media has resulted in the majority of people being plugged into their devices, leaving traditional media and journalism in the dust. Gone are the days of television, radio, print newspapers, and magazines being the only dominant players.

As a marketing approach, PR is expensive and often ineffective compared to the many other powerful ways we can create and distribute content today. 

PR agencies spent so much of their resources to distribute press releases to newswires and publications (who are perpetually reluctant to give away free advertising) on the off chance that they would reach their clients’ target customers. 

And even if they did get coverage from those publications, it was difficult to gauge the measurable impact of their content. They didn’t know how many people were reading or viewing their press releases and they couldn’t tell whether the audience responded well to it or not.

The number of organisations you had to pass through (from the PR agency to the potential publications) also meant businesses weren’t engaging with customers as directly as they could.

But the way technology and social media has risen in the past few years has changed all that. 

Now, more companies are working with agencies to focus on content creation and social media campaigns. They see how inbound marketing is a more effective approach since it focuses on creating valuable content and experiences tailored to their customers.

The fall of traditional media

The truth is, the heyday of traditional media is over. 

With the advent of streaming services, fewer and fewer people are watching linear TV (i.e. traditional television viewing wherein you need to tune in to a specific channel at an appointed time). 

In fact, short videos on Youtube or TikTok gain more views (and audience engagement) than a prime-time slot on Channel 9 or Channel 7. Statistics predicted that 51% of Australians would watch more from streaming services than from traditional TV channels in 2020.

Meanwhile, a succinct but well-executed tweet can grab more attention than a newspaper’s front page. 

According to research conducted by the Media, Entertainments, and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the media sector in Australia has lost approximately 3,000 journalist positions since the exponential growth of digital platforms 10 years ago. This is in part due to the declining ad revenue (and relevance) of so many traditional newsrooms.

The one-inch column is no longer as important as it used to be. There are much quicker, more convenient, and more accessible ways for people to read content. You don’t even have to buy the daily newspaper, you can just go online on your smartphone. 

You can get e-Newsletters about the latest news and current events or even visit the outlet’s official Twitter or Facebook page to check for updates in real-time. 

Some businesses refuse to adapt, thinking that the (highly dubious) measure of “publicity value” (i.e. the cost of a placement if an article was an equivalent-sized ad) rather than acknowledging the necessity of digital transformation

Traditional businesses become irrelevant to their customers, fall behind forward-thinking competitors, and are unable to collect relevant data (since they don’t use digital analytic tools).

The rise of social media

In the Digital 2021: Australia report, the amount of time Australian users (ranging from 16 to 64 years old) spent online increased by 10% (or 32 minutes). In comparison, the time spent watching TV only increased by 15 minutes, even though most Aussies were cooped up for the better part of 2020 because of the pandemic. 

This means that Australian users spend an average of six hours a day on the internet across different devices. This includes using social media, streaming television and music, listening to podcasts, and even playing games on a console.

And if we look at the world at large, mobile devices have generated more than half of the global web traffic since 2019. This has caused 64% of marketers to actively invest in SEO, while 94% of them use social media for content distribution.

So, it’s obvious that social media is king in the marketing and public relations world. Especially now that more companies rely on content creation to reach those same users who spend most of their days online. 

The history of social media and how it became so popular shows how the internet landscape (and the people occupying it) has changed and adapted throughout time. 

And while those pioneering social media websites (from Friendster to Myspace) all had niche markets and purposes, they had a common goal: To connect people with each other and create a sense of community.

This is still true for today’s social media networks. Users can geek out in Twitter’s niche communities, from science nerds and creative writers to Star Wars fans and history buffs. Meanwhile, Instagram’s popular communities includes “#petstagram” (for pet owners) and ”#yogagram” (for yoga practitioners).

People are online more because it’s easy, accessible, and convenient. But it’s also because it gives them limitless opportunities to connect and engage with others and even with brands they want to support.

This is something that the traditional PR model couldn’t do; It can’t engage people because it talked at readers, not to them. And it’s why many agencies have shifted to a digital approach with a focus on content creation. 

The power of content

Content marketing is becoming powerful because it uses social media and other digital platforms to build strong online presences and strong connections for business’ target audiences. 

Many businesses (and even some PR agencies) have seen the advantages of content marketing. It ensures that your content is tailored specifically to what your audience will enjoy, including long-form articles, videos, podcasts, or even social media posts. It’s no wonder that 77% of businesses have a content marketing strategy in place.

Content marketing is a craft. It involves creative SEO copywriting services (that search engines and humans alike will approve of), focused use of trends and current events to increase relevance, and consistency and frequency in the quality of content.

The creativity, adaptability, and consistency that content marketing demands is the reason it does so well in the digital age. Content marketing ensures that users continue to engage with your brand as they stay online.

There are many examples of how content marketing has helped brands succeed. Stories from the Airbnb Community is a social media campaign that focuses on the hosts of Airbnb homes, giving viewers a guided local tour of the house, the area, and the destination.

The Furrow is also a remarkable success story because even though it started as a print magazine, it was able to adapt to current times (unlike other indie titles) by offering an online publication with an annual subscription and a podcast called “On Life & Land.” 

Public Relations needs to evolve to stay relevant

While the traditional PR model is certainly dying, this doesn’t mean Public Relations itself is over. The industry can thrive — as long as it also undergoes a transformation. 

Adapting to the changing times is key and to do that, it’s important to look at how their audiences use social media, how their customers consume content, and how they can use content marketing.

Using analytics to measure success and customer engagement is also important. Print placements and publicity value can’t tell a business how much their content has reached target customers

Shifting from print to digital can be a big jump but it may be a necessary one, especially if you want to reach a wider audience. And a good content marketing strategy involves a targeted and strategic combination of different channels and platforms. 

As a business, it’s important to consistently produce quality content because your audience will expect it. The evolution of content has allowed us, as users, to enjoy informative and entertaining eBooks, SEO-friendly articles, impactful videos, and amazing podcasts.  

If you want to grow in the digital age, then creating content is the way to go.

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