The Fall of PR & The Rise of Digital?? Is it the end of the road for Traditional or Mainstream PR?
Updated: Jan 20, 2018
In 2002, in a book titled ‘The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR’, marketing strategists - Al and Laura Ries highlighted the power of PR and virtually wrote the obituary of advertising. Today, exactly a decade and a half later; some experts in the media circle believe the tables have turned and it’s the end of the road for traditional or mainstream PR. They argue that the expansion of the Internet and digital media has sounded the death kneel for mainstream PR.
Prima facie this argument about the demise of PR in this wired or digital world seems to contain some weight. With a plethora of ‘INSTANT’ communication tools at our disposal why should any company or brand waste valuable productive hours to send out Press Releases, organize Press Conferences, conduct Media Interviews or deploy other ‘old- school ’ PR tactics? Instead they can just send out a tweet, post it on FB or upload a video on YouTube enabling them to send their message to millions of followers at the click of a button without any of these ‘PR fanfare’. But is it reason enough to jump to a conclusion and write the obituary of PR?
While on one hand, it makes immense professional sense in using the company/brand channels and communicating directly with the consumers; on the other, it will be also highly amateurish to construe that traditional or mainstream PR is marching to it’s sunset. In fact; our take is that:
Traditional PR will not only co-exist but will be even more relevant in this digital age than in the prior eras.
We have several reasons to believe so.
One of the X Factors of PR is the power of third-party endorsements, which works as a catalyst in multiplying the trust factor of any claim by a brand or company. This is the same as tom-tomming about yourself v/s a neutral person coming out and speaking well about you. Let’s create two scenario to help you picture this yourself:
Scenario 1: You put up a post on FB where you vividly describe a great tennis match which you won
Scenario 2: You put up an FB post where you simply share a copy of a local newspaper article talking about your fabulous win in the tennis match
Which of these posts, do you think will generate more likes and congratulatory comments? The answer is obvious.
In the same way, an automobile company for example, can post endless write-ups and videos highlighting the unique features of it’s newly launched vehicle; but it’s that positive review in Top Gear or Auto Car that can steal the show for the brand. And if you are someone (like me) who still relies on critic reviews in newspapers more than trailers or promos, before going to the movie theatre; you are indeed sold to the idea of third party advocacy.
Although, by now you might be convinced about the salience of PR; you may however, be still wondering how will PR become ‘stronger’ in this digital times. This is where another X-Factor of PR and traditional media comes into play, which is ‘CREDIBILITY’.
The digital revolution albeit all it’s pros have also ushered in an era of fake news proliferating across the web and messaging platforms like Whats App. From doctored photos and videos to false and incendiary claims; different types of fake news stories and memes are shared rampantly via digital platforms in India and across the globe every day. Slowly and steadily, as netizens rise up the evolution graph, they would increasingly rely on the credibility of the news source rather than the news itself. So, when they see Times of India, Indian Express, NDTV or Republic TV v/s say an XYZ blog; they know exactly which sources to trust and which ones to ignore.
This is especially true in times of crisis. During such times; the credibility factor of traditional media can be harnessed by companies and brands to dispel myths and explain the desired company standpoint. You never know, sometimes it will be that old and important media contact/relation which you nurtured over the years that will come to your rescue when you are being cornered from all sides. Hence, engaging in the PR process is still as critical in this ‘Facebook’ era as it was in the ‘fax’ generation for example.
Think of it, a company like Google who despite roughly controlling 50% of the Internet also allocates substantial amount of time and resources for mainstream PR. So, how can ‘lesser mortal’ firms and brands afford to miss out?
Therefore, our view is that traditional PR will co-exist in this digital era and create synergies with the new-age communication mediums. And coming back again to what Al and Laura Ries wrote several years ago, we believe that the
“ The PR sun is blooming at all it’s glory and will not be ‘clouded’ by the digital sun ’.