PR Is Dead … Or Is it Pivoting?

This is a guest post by Julie Karbo, founder & CEO, Karbo Communications.

PR blockThis is a guest post by Julie Karbo, founder & CEO, Karbo Communications.

Robert Phillips’ Trust Me, PR is Dead comes out in paperback on Nov. 24. As the blurb explains: “The age of ‘spin’ is over. In this age of activism and individual empowerment, power is shifting from state to citizen; employer to employee; corporation to citizen-consumer.”

If 2015 marks spin’s death, then let 2016 mark the rebirth of informative influential communications, tempered by healthy skeptics on social media.

Balanced, fair, useful and true content is always in vogue. Conversely, when an organization earns a reputation for sharing overly self-promotional content that isn’t clearly labeled as such, soon only those with a vested interest will share this content–illustrating social media’s power to “regulate” itself.

Content that informs and influences effectively typically also answers the proverbial journalistic question, “Why should my readers care?” In today’s world of shrinking attention spans and an abundance of content, PR efforts typically must compel interest in 140 characters or fewer, and in 15 seconds or less. Or, as Chevrolet did in a 2015 media event announcement for its new Cruze, in a unique way, via emojis.

Journalists’ expertise and impartiality will always have value. What the Internet and evolving social media give us are pipelines that let us speak directly to intended audiences.

Social media is now where many Americans get their news. According to a July 2015 Pew Research Center study, “…clear majorities of Twitter (63 percent) and Facebook users (63 percent) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.” Perhaps you’re like me and frequently see news break over social media before it’s covered by more traditional news sources.

Social media is also where we nurture relationships, whether sharing photos with family members via Instagram, seeking referrals for babysitters on Nextdoor, or connecting with small business owners on Townsquared. Similarly in PR, we develop relationships with reporters on social sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, and pitch reporters via Snapchat. Twitter forces our pitches to be succinct, which reporters tell us alleviates the inbox chaos created by the hundreds of pitches/press releases they receive daily.

On the flip side, many reporters prefer private communications as a way to get the news before competitors do. In July 2015, Twitter increased the maximum length of DMs to 10,000 characters, which is roughly 1,800 words, the average length of long-form content found in The New York Times, Washington Post and fast-growing newcomer Quartz.

Whether succinct or feature-length, content is now proliferating at a rate that threatens to overwhelm PR’s intended audiences as never before. Consider this parallel example in television: When John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, spoke to the Television Critics Association in August 2015, he said there is “too much television” out there. You’d never expect the head of a network to say that. Yet, research supports his controversial statement: 400-plus original scripted, English-language series will air on American television in 2015 before the year is out. This excludes reality shows, game shows, documentaries, talk shows and other popular forms of TV entertainment. Landgraf pointed out how much harder it is for viewers to find really great shows.

The same goes for prospective customers to find really great content. Yet, in this current “Era of the Customer,” where customers have more access to information than ever before, it’s imperative that we educate and provide meaningful content that informs and persuades during the research and discovery phase of the buying process.

Regardless of the medium used, the volume of content proliferated, or the length of the content shared, strategic PR continues—and we believe will continue in the future–to serve as a powerful methodology for communicating messages that inform and persuade target audiences. Especially when those messages result from organizations challenging themselves to think outside their start-up or corporate walls to identify customers’ pain and connect the dots between how their products or services address this pain.

This kind of PR never dies, but is evergreen.

Julie Karbo is a technology marketing and PR veteran of more than 25 years. She has worked with companies such as Apple, Digg, Equinix, Nexenta and Oracle. Her firm, Karbo Communications, helps startups and established companies achieve market leadership.