The communications industry has changed dramatically over the last decade, and continues to do so at lightning speed. From technology and content to platforms and channels, the way individuals and companies communicate with each other has altered forever. The question is no longer whether we should go digital, that’s a given, but how do we effectively manage the mix of compelling storytelling, clutter-busting content, super-targeted campaigns and supreme creativity that clients now demand?
Originally this task would have been divided between the traditional communications disciplines - PR, marketing, advertising, and digital media. However, the line between them – already paper thin to begin with, is becoming increasingly blurry due to emerging technology and new innovations. Does PR report to marketing or is it the other way around? Do social media operators trump both? And who in an organisation should coordinate it all, especially if different people, departments or agencies currently handle each?
My view is that what we’re seeing is a fundamental shift in how communications is structured, with the core disciplines moving towards a single unified function that will create, coordinate, consider, and control every aspect of strategic communications. And that’s a good thing – none of them are truly successful in isolation, they need to be integrated and seamless, comprehensive in approach, consistent in messaging and coordinated across all potential channels in order to succeed.
And it’s already happening.
The Public Relations and Communications Association in the Middle East and North Africa (PRCA MENA) recently unveiled its first Digital PR and Communications Report - a benchmark for how the PR industry is performing in digital communications. 44% of people surveyed believed that their digital budgets would increase over the next twelve months, with the biggest client expectations being creative ideas (54%) and online media (48%), with only 27% saying they do not currently rely on PR and communications agencies to help them generate original content.
As well as demonstrating that clients are likely to invest more in communications in the near future, it also shows that resources are increasingly being channeled into the ever- growing grey area between disciplines - predominantly the creation of new ideas and original content to bust through an increasingly cluttered digital environment.
What ‘s needed then is a 360-degree approach to strategic communications, one that draws on the very best parts of PR, social media, marketing and advertising, consolidating it all into a new role that’s designed specifically for the challenges ahead – the ultimate communication professional. As to what this new role should be called, considering it’s the birth of a new industry, how about PRAM (PR, Advertising and Media) or PROM specialist (Public Relations and Online Media) or, considering the amount of head-butting usually found between the rival disciplines, PRANG might be even better (PR, Advertising and New Genres).
Whatever we call it, there’s no doubt it will work out better for the client. As well as giving them a one-stop shop of skills to get the job done, they will no longer find themselves lost as to where traditional PR ends and marketing begins, or where social media factors into the whole equation. Best of all they will no longer have to split their budget, time and resources between multiple specialisms, but can instead focus them where it counts – getting their message out.
By Anne Bleeker, Managing Partner In2 Consulting