By Darren Gilbert
While this is a fairly basic explanation, there is more meaning in these words than you may initially think. Green isn’t only speaking about PR in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, he is referring to PR’s new best friend: technology.
In a world where technology has provided a path for a company’s growth and development, it’s difficult to find an area that hasn’t been touched by it in some way or another. The same can be said for PR. In fact, if you were to go along with the sentiment of Phatic Communications’ director, Candice de Carvalho, you’d realise that technology has not just become a best friend for PR; it has become a necessity. “With PR evolving technically as a whole, the opportunity of using modern technology [in an effort to reach more people] has given the industry a new dimension.”
One part of this new aspect involves digital PR, a term which is surprising old school according to Channel Managed PR owner, Angelo Coppola. For America, it has been around for close to 14 years while in South Africa, it has only been around since the introduction of Facebook
to this country. If you haven’t guessed what it’s all about by now (and it’s fairly easy to do so), here it is: digital PR allows for the opportunity of the dissemination of news and information online, without relying solely on mainstream publications.
Otherwise referred to as ‘interactive public relations’ overseas, it allows for something which De Carvalho believes people in PR have wanted for a long time: a two-way conversation. “PR has come into its own online. People in PR have longed to dialogue and haven’t had the chance to do so [until the introduction of social media].” And then there is the absence of corporate obstacles for things such as giveaways, more freedom and its undeniable reach. “It’s definitely taken PR to the next level,” says Green. “If you were to just focus on numbers alone, you’d find that traditional PR can’t compete with online.”
I wonder whether those who dabbled in social media in the beginning ever envisioned such possibilities. My guess would be ‘no’, but such is the power of online as it stands that as Green rightly says, it would be downright mad to not even consider going the route of digital PR. With social media allowing anyone and everyone instant access to news and information no matter where they are, the possibilities of what online can do for PR, and thus for someone with a message to spread, is phenomenal.
It’s at this point that De Carvalho adds another reason for going the digital route. While distributing your message as quickly as possible is the goal, your thinking around how to get a message out needs to change. “You need to realise that your traditional outlets such as the Mail &ampamp Guardian
newspaper also have an online presence while [certain] publishers may only have an online presence. By not at least attempting digital PR, you are cutting out potential customers,” and in doing that, short-changing yourself. It’s a point Green agrees with. He maintains that “80% of those businesses who attempt it will find that it helps their company.”
In fact, Green is so confident about digital PR and its future role in South Africa that he believes by the middle of this year, the uptake will be immense. Of course, there is still fear from some companies about using social media, with Coppola admitting it is often viewed as the “whining channel,” but that can be easily combated with education. Another way of soothing those anxious minds, as Green reiterates, is to acknowledge that while the methods used in traditional and digital are different – the latter uses technologies such as search engines, Twitter
, blogging and social media marketing – communication online and offline is essentially the same.
It comes back to Green’s first statement. PR aims to get your message out to as many people as possible without having to do too much. In that light, social media and indeed the online space is like manna from heaven. Where else can you directly reach an audience of millions in so little time? For De Carvalho, and indeed Green and Coppola, it’s a no-brainer. In our world today, you need to think digital first.
Do you make use of digital channels to spread messages and calls to action? Share your comments on our blog