We live in a world that is drowning in information, yet parched for knowledge. The last thing any of us needs is more data, arguments or product sales pitches. What we need are skilled individuals who are capable of interpreting information, providing context, communicating relevance, and unearthing meaning. There is simply not enough time in the day (some might argue we are too lazy and/or distracted) to connect the dots for ourselves. As a result, marketers are turning to highly-developed techniques – at the intersection of public relations and journalism – to tell their story with impact.
Beyond the message
Public relations has historically been focused on honing, rehearsing and ultimately advancing “the message” through media sources and live events. The message is designed to be highly concentrated in order to quickly (and memorably) communicate the essence of the narrative being put forth. Here are a couple of good examples:
Change doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.
– Barack Obama
We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.
– Steve Jobs
Profound changes over the past decade have expanded the role of public relations beyond the stereotypical “message track” to a new, multidisciplinary plane where the focus is on storytelling in all of its contemporary dimensions.
What’s driving this change?
Two things are happening simultaneously that are forever changing the media landscape. They are related.
- The consolidation of media businesses around the world has had the unforgiveable consequence of diminishing the depth and quality of journalism being practised.
- The rise of social media, including independent online news organizations, blogs, citizen journalism and peer-to-peer networks, has given voice to those who had none before.
On the surface it might appear that these foundational changes diminish the impact of PR, but on the contrary, these market shifts have created the opportunity for us to move into the role of full-fledged brand journalists.
We are practicing brand journalism every day. This means that we are creating branded content – presented through a journalistic lens – and making it available to the world. The end product could be an article, a video, a documentary, a blog post, a lifestyle television segment, a national editorial campaign, media tour or a standalone publication.
The implication of this expanded role is that we must employ the broadest range of communications professionals capable of taking a story where it needs to go. It also means that we must impose very high standards upon the work we do. It is essential that our work be authentic, timely, engaging, relevant and, most of all, not advertising!
This is an incredible time for the public relations profession – a time of great change and opportunity – and a period in which we are becoming the primary source for both strategy and story.