7 ways technology has changed public relations (besides getting rid of the fax machine)

7 ways technology has changed public relations (besides getting rid of the fax machine)

Anyone remember using these?

Last week, I went to a summit on the future of financial services communications. Along with learning where PR and marketing in that industry is headed, I realized just how much technology has changed the public relations industry.

While I’m extremely appreciative that I no longer have to fax press releases (or anything, really), technology has created a lot of opportunities and just as many challenges for the industry how we do our jobs.

Here are seven ways that technology has changed how we do PR for companies and clients.

1. People don’t have to listen if they don’t want to. Years ago, television and newspapers were the sources of information for people. Companies and politicians could send their messages through these channels, and people would hear them. Not so much today. With new tools and technologies, people can select what they want to hear. They don’t have to get their news from the WSJ on Twitter; they can follow the Huffington Post instead. We can subscribe to information about our interests and unsubscribe to what we don’t find interesting. Sometimes, we don’t have to click at all. Our audiences have the power to control what they hear and what they don’t, and that’s a challenge that we have to work around.

2. Self-segmentation makes our jobs easier and more difficult at the same time. I like this concept of “self-segmenting” that Leigh Drogen talked about. Because of what we choose to listen to, where we choose to get information, we automatically segment ourselves. The conversations we partake in on Twitter, the groups we join on LinkedIn, and the subreddits we post to help PR professionals identify the topics that are of interest to audiences. In my mind, it’s useful for consumer-facing businesses and politicians and policymakers. But at the same time, it makes it more difficult because identifying those information sources and analyzing that data takes time and resources (and money!).

3. Technology has changed the dynamic of trust. Because we have access to so much information, so much data, and so many different opinions, people have become more skeptical of information from all these different sources. That’s why information from peers continues to be one of the most trusted sources of information, more than government officials or business leaders. This trust barrier makes it challenging for businesses, the government and media the communicate.

4. There are A LOT of tools to communicate. One day, I realized that I talk to my friends through, what feels like, a million channels: Gchat, Facebook, texting, phone calls, Snapchat, emails, Facebook messaging, WhatsApp, Instagram. I’m sure other people can add on to this list. The challenge for PR professionals is how to reach people, when there are so many different ways to do it.

5. We hear people, without them having to say anything explicitly. By listening to the conversations online, you can learn a lot about people and audiences...without them having to say anything explicitly. This is very cool stuff: technology has the ability to listen and analyze, develop profiles and the best way to reach new group segments.

6. Technology gave us easy international communication and it’s amazing. We now have the ability to talk to people across the country and across the globe. We can talk to customers and clients who are thousands of miles away. But with this comes customization: because of cultural differences and translation, we have to do more research and change the way we say things to account for any cultural differences.

7. There’s a very fine line between risk and reward and risk and a problem. There’s a reason why financial services, and many business in general, have a fear of technology and social media. There’s a very thin line between taking risks and having it work out; and taking risks and failing. Even more so than before, it takes even more work, research, and cross-functional coordination (and sometimes reassurance) to take the leap and be successful.  

What do you think? What other ways has technology changed public relations?

Julia Sahin works in Corporate Communications at one of the largest PR firms in New York and is a monthly contributor to Muck Rack. She is a recent graduate from the Master’s program in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at NYU and was the first to conduct and publish academic research on the reputational effects of regulation on big banks. She plans on doing big things. All opinions should be seen as her own and do not reflect her employer’s.

Photo: Fax machine via Shutterstock

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