PR Reimagined: Telling your story in new ways

By Allyson Wright on September 8th, 2017

Courtney Edwards and Natalie Joslin co-wrote this blog.

Since the first press release was distributed and picked up by The New York Times in 1906, new technologies and trends continued to emerge in public relations, all with the same goal of effectively telling your story. Recently, we had the opportunity to attend PR Reimagined, a General Assembly course where four panelists from different spaces within public relations discussed the industry’s constantly evolving landscape. Each panelist spoke to ways public relations is progressing beyond its traditional means to help companies, brands and agencies better reach their audiences.

These five agreed-upon trends emerged among the hottest topics in storytelling today:

1. Rise of technology
The panelists focused on two pieces of technology rising in popularity: Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, The New York Times uses VR to put readers “at the center of their stories” through a 360-experience of news stories around the world. So, how is it changing the industry? Ericka Davis, director of communications and media relations, Atlanta Beltline, talked about how VR is seen as an incredibly effective tool, giving an audience a peek into previously unseen areas and enticing them to experience what you have to offer in real time. AI, or “augmented intelligence,” as Peggy Gardner, senior director of public relations, UPS, likes to call it, is enhancing customer service and building relationships with audiences around the industry. UPS utilizes AI in the form of chatbots through Facebook Messenger, allowing customers to “speak” with the company and get immediate answers. Filling the gaps between you and your audience using these tools adds a meaningful level of consistency and transparency to your storytelling.

2. Maintaining your good name
Reputation management has become one of the biggest pain points in the industry with the existence of social media and the internet. We consistently see major mishaps, most recently Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner commercial and United’s flight incident, but what did we learn? The panelists all agreed that the organizations allowed too much time to pass before responding publicly. According to Gardner, identifying your weaknesses and combating them with a consistent, preventative storyline, or telling the good stuff when we can, is crucial. And when the incident does occur - because it will occur - it is important to be transparent and identify the wrongs from the very beginning, Angela Watts, CEO and founder, 10Squared, explained.

3. Combating “fake news”
Brand newsrooms are emerging as “fake news” has become more common in the world of social media and the 24-hour news cycle. The panelists agreed that in the rush to file a story, there’s not always accuracy. A brand newsroom approach cuts out traditional public relations tactics and allows us to share important parts of our story that may not get media pick-up. This new, but effective model allows us to flip the script - talking directly to our audience without relying on the media middleman.

4. PR is only one piece of the puzzle
Let’s be honest, public relations cannot live in silo to get results. Davis uses Twitter to engage in conversations about the Beltline with followers and, in turn, her audience shares positive stories about their experiences that she is able to leverage across media relations campaigns and other platforms. Integrated marketing is the “wave of the future” according to the panelists, providing more engaging storytelling and the opportunity to reach your audience in unique ways.

5. Rethinking measurement
While certain key metrics have been the traditional sign of success, the industry is rethinking what these measurements really mean. The panelists were all quick to agree that sales - people using the services we are talking to them about - is the real indicator of campaign success. Jason Swenk, agency growth coach, mentor and advisor, iterated the importance of knowing your audience and how they want to be reached. Ask yourself, “Are we telling our story to the right people through the right channels?”

Swenk ended the conversation with this: no matter what, we must view ourselves as storytellers. By understanding our audiences and utilizing these tools and trends, we have the ability to tell engaging, powerful stories and make a true impact.

What other emerging trends are you seeing that is shaping PR to become more effective today?

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