Public Relations for the 21st Century

As an eager PR professional I am always a little concerned about spreading my knowledge of certain topics too thinly, in other words becoming a ‘Jack of all trades and master of nothing’. It seems, however, that gaining a 360-degree perspective into the online world is by no means a bad thing, in fact it is predicted to be an essential tool for any PR pro in the future (according to Social Media Examiner, anyway).

Advocating a ’360-degree perspective into the online world’ does seem a little vague, so let me break it down for you and highlight the problems.

When I sat my NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) a few years ago it is shocking just how irrelevant the answers you were expected to give would seem only three years on. There was no mention of reporting news in real time, no significance placed on the role of social media or even highlighting the news through means other than a notepad and a camera (for the cheesy cheque-holding image). Seriously, you could gain full marks for describing how you would report a story by simply stating you would visit those featured in the article and take an image to compliment the story, be it ‘forlorn’ customers, ‘excited’ children or perhaps the most common for local papers, ‘disgruntled’ residents.

It seems that as the print media industry has finally begun to see the importance of the Internet, so too has the PR industry. I am left wondering whether there is enough urgency placed on the need for a deeper understanding of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). As I work towards helping clients spread their message to as many of their target audience as possible, I can’t help but realise both the importance and sheer value of the online tools that not only help you to distribute your efforts, but monitor and most importantly maximise them.

I asked our web designer to add Google Analytics to each page of our website and to the websites of our clients (that didn’t already have it installed). Not only that, I began to research the backlinks that competitors had going to their site and also the links currently directing traffic to our own clients. All of this was done with sites such as Open Site Explorer. The results were extremely interesting.

It now seems that to effectively execute any sort of campaign there needs to be a level of link building strategy to ensure that Google appreciates what you are promoting. The continual analysis of links helps you to maintain a continual feed of them, be it by listing your client on a business directory or through online editorial, for example.

So, not only do you need to be able to write, but now it is a case of adopting a strategic approach to all online activity in order to take full advantage of the vast quantities of information open to you, all of which are becoming more and more essential for you to track your online efforts.

I entered the world of PR with a basic grasp of the tools needed to provide a return on investment for clients; understanding SEO may fuel the ‘Jack of all trades’ fear I had, but it certainly helps to provide a better service to a client in such an uncertain economic climate.

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