It is a common misbelief that Public Relations (PR) is a new profession that came to the fore only a couple of decades back. In reality, however, the practice of PR can be traced back to the early Greek and Roman civilizations. Traditionally, PR constituted primarily of communication and disseminating information through press releases or other modes of linear communication. Today, PR is spearheaded by a transformed digital landscape, with brands taking to online media platforms to establish connections with clients and have actual conversations with a more involved consumer base.
History of PR
Some of the oldest influencers of public relations include Aristotle, Julius Caesar, and Socrates, to name a few. They laid the foundation of PR and emphasized the need for effective communication between the public. Before the Greek and Roman era, priests played the chief role in influencing the public and persuading them to act according to their interests. The rulers used the medium of writing to sway history in their favor, shaping the mass opinion as they preferred. While this power earlier lied either with the priests or the rulers, the Greek era saw a change with the gradual shift of this power into the hands of non-religious or secular forces. Public opinion became primarily influenced by such emerging leaders who distinctly separated themselves from the church. People were free to voice out their views and perspectives without much oppression from the higher authorities, unlike before.
With the invention of the telegraph, communication became more effectual and soon, other innovations like the telephone, phonograph and radio communication lined up. But it was only in the year 1903 that Public Relations was given recognition as a profession for the very first time, as Ivy Lee was made advisor for John Rockefeller. After this, PR gained popularity at a great pace and evolved as we see it today.
As we can see, while PR has seemingly undergone a rapid metamorphosis, its pillars – information, persuasion, and building trust – and its roots remain intact.
“What exactly changed then?”
Here are three distinct trends that have significantly contributed to the evolution of PR.
Role of the PR Professional
As the PR industry continues to evolve, the role of the PR professional, clients’ demands, and what the industry entails, in general, has also changed. The focal themes for PR Week 2015 were “integration, convergence, and the ramping up in the importance of digital and social media.” Declining revenues from earned media have foregrounded paid, shared, and owned media – and the skills required to profit from them. With real-time marketing becoming taking over, PR agencies are focused on creating digital content. This change has fortified the demand for a revised modus operandi in PR and an updated skill set in its professionals. Businesses will hire PR agencies mainly to provide strategy, expertise, and creative thinking. Surveys indicate that PR value can be optimally augmented by demonstrating how it helps achieve measurable business goals.
Ascent of Influencer Marketing
Earlier, journalists and other publications were, more often than not, the sole source of earned media within PR. Post digitalization, the number of people with sway over social media has exponentially increased. Influencers like bloggers, celebrities, business analysts, or other trusted buyers greatly facilitate a decent outreach on social media. The colossal shift in eMarketing to influencer marketing brings up just one question: “How can we employ social media to better our PR strategy?”.
Keeping a close tab on insights of networking sites on which you can interact with your audience is imperative. Trends being followed, hot topics, etc., help attract viewership. The new-age PR calls for an increased focus on fostering relationships with your clients and your target audience.
Digitalization of Journalism
Whilst traditional features of PR like press releases, by-lines and whitepapers are used presently as well, PR has primarily become digital. GQ’s insight and strategy editor conducted a survey to gain insight into ‘social media trends impacting journalism’. The survey proved that journalists are more likely to read the posts of people they follow socially and prefer to communicate with the public via social media.