The game has changed

In a world of con­stant dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion, is PR still rel­e­vant, asks Ah­mad Itani, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Cicero & Ber­nay

ArabAd - - CONTENTS - by Ah­mad Itani

Be­fore I an­swer this ques­tion, let us time travel.

Ten short years ago, Ap­ple launched its orig­i­nal iphone and put IOT into our hands for the first time. Three years later, In­sta­gram opened a mil­lion win­dows onto the world. Then Snapchat fol­lowed, mak­ing ev­ery user into a sto­ry­teller and rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Just three mile­stones in a me­te­oric decade that has seen such progress that new dic­tionary def­i­ni­tions are be­ing cre­ated ev­ery day: ‘in­sta­grammable’, ‘click­bait’, ‘selfie’, ‘ph­ablet’ and ‘dig­i­tal detox’. We are quite lit­er­ally re-writ­ing our lan­guage to keep up with the grow­ing pace of trans­for­ma­tion.

The game has changed for­ever and I have wit­nessed it at first hand; it is char­ac­terised by the rise of a global cul­ture that is more con­nected than it has ever been. This new era of connectivity has dra­mat­i­cally altered the shape and scope of work in my own in­dus­try – public re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Even the hum­ble press re­lease, which was once our bread and but­ter, has be­come a com­pletely new beast with na­tive con­tent and the 24x7 news­feed.

With the en­tire world talk­ing on first name terms, a highly com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment has emerged. Brands and com­pa­nies are com­pet­ing for share of voice and busi­ness, and ev­ery in­di­vid­ual has the po­ten­tial to be­come a con­trib­u­tor to the global news flow.

Since the launch of In­sta­gram, 40 bil­lion images have been up­loaded, which is re­mark­able when we con­sider that the world pop­u­la­tion cur­rently stands at around 7.5 bil­lion. Twit­ter blows that fig­ure out of the wa­ter, with a stag­ger­ing 200 bil­lion tweets posted ev­ery year. With all this con­tent, our engagement win­dow is rapidly short­en­ing. Drop­ping from eight sec­onds just a cou­ple of years ago, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est coms­core sur­vey, brands now have only five to six sec­onds to grab a con­sumer’s at­ten­tion.

In this con­text, PR lead­ers face a new chal­lenge. Now we need to har­ness the power of dig­i­tal and new-age meth­ods to reach con­sumers across a whole new par­a­digm, whether in the online sphere through fully-fledged so­cial me­dia cam­paigns and in­flu­encer engagement, on the ground with brand out­reach and ex­pe­ri­en­tial ac­ti­va­tion, or via the me­dia with ex­cit­ing, con­sumer-cen­tric con­tent that se­cures that all-im­por­tant click through or page turn. This is the only way to de­liver mea­sur­able re­sults for our clients and help them stand out from the grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion. So, is PR still rel­e­vant? Now more than ever. PR is per­fectly po­si­tioned to lead the build­ing of brands for a num­ber of rea­sons. Firstly, I be­lieve what sets us apart from ad­ver­tis­ing and other forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a fo­cus on facts. Public re­la­tions is con­tent that is true. This ap­peals to to­day’s au­di­ence, which is in­creas­ingly sus­pi­cious of brand spiel. Sec­ondly, we have first and di­rect ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, brand lead­er­ship, and fu­ture plans, giv­ing us the op­por­tu­nity to am­bi­tiously evolve our ser­vices with im­proved in­sight and ul­ti­mately, suc­cess. Thirdly, we have more chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open to us now, tak­ing our voice global and adding reach that cov­ers all touch points. And fi­nally, let me give you an anal­ogy. If a brand were a hu­man be­ing, then ev­ery­thing it says and does – in­clud­ing what it looks like, where it meets you, why it does some­thing, who it must never be and so much more – is within the re­mit of new-age public re­la­tions. This is the scope that must be cov­ered, mea­sured and con­stantly added to.

How­ever, brand rep­u­ta­tion isn’t the only public re­la­tions man­date any­more. Ev­ery player in this changed game must care about ROI. PR lead­ers need to fo­cus on value cre­ation and re­sults that go be­yond AVIS and clip­pings, and into tac­tics. Re­sults need to be linked as much to mar­ket­ing goals as to holis­tic brand philoso­phies. Seize th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties, and we’ll sweep the se­ries. Re­sist the change and we’ll im­me­di­ately drop the ball. The game has changed – PR will be the win­ner. -

PR lead­ers need to fo­cus on value cre­ation and re­sults that go be­yond AVIS and clip­pings, and into tac­tics. Re­sults need to be linked as much to mar­ket­ing goals as to holis­tic brand philoso­phies.

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