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The Golden Age: How the PR Industry Is Coming Into its Own

The Golden Age: How the PR Industry Is Coming Into its Own
Image credit: Hakan Dahlstrom

Technology has changed our lives in profound ways -- from how we watch TV, read books and listen to music, to the way we shop for shoes, hail taxis and look for that special someone.

And these technological advances have had a direct and measurable effect on business.

Just look at the recent spate of high-profile bankruptcies from the likes of RadioShack, Blockbuster and Circuit City -- or on the flipside -- billion-dollar capitalizations of so-called tech “unicorns” like Uber and Pinterest.

It’s easy enough to chalk it up to a game of winners and losers, but in reality, business is a lot like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: To achieve success over the long haul, you have to adapt or go the way of the dinosaur.

Related: The Basics of Getting the PR Your Business Needs

Historically, PR agencies built their reputations primarily on the strength of their Rolodexes and their ability to open doors to high-profile reporters, editors and producers. While this is still an important part of the job, it’s now just a piece of the larger brand puzzle.

With the changed communications landscape, crafting the right message is now just as important as getting in with the right messenger. Rather than simply opening up doors to the gatekeepers, PR professionals must now figure out how to tell a story that resonates across multiple channels clogged with competing messages.

This isn't to say that the personal relationship is in any way diminished. In fact, it’s the opposite -- with so much noise coming from so many channels, the personal relationship has, in many ways, become even more important.

Over the last decade, communications professionals have had to evolve from promoters into full-fledged brand strategists, crafting the right messaging, shaping the story and identifying the right journalists and mediums. Aside from traditional media relations, successful PR firms have had to think more broadly -- creating high-quality content hubs to feed social and digital media channels while further cultivating a recognizable brand image through creative launches, high-profile partnerships, speaking engagements and other similar initiatives.

Related: 13 Ways to Get on a Journalist's Good Side

According to the 2014 World Report, which ranks the largest 250 PR firms worldwide, the PR industry grew 11 percent in 2013, a significant jump from the previous year’s increase of eight percent. The report also noted that a big reason for the increase was because of “firms coming to terms with the challenge of digital and social media. Throughout the survey, we see firms increasing their investment in digital build and production, and social community management, and competing successfully for so-called ‘non-traditional’ assignments.”

It’s an exciting time in our industry.

PR professionals are playing a more critical, creative and strategic role at the inception stage, which inevitably leads to stronger branding that is more likely to resonate with the media and key stakeholders. With the rise of social media, businesses have been able to stretch their marketing dollars to the fullest, repurposing and reworking content so that it delivers two, three and four times the number of media impressions in comparison to a single traditional placement. We're also fully able to shape and deliver the message so that it’s best for the client, which was impossible to do pre-Internet.

For PR professionals, figuring out how to respond to and anticipate the latest communications trends has become as vital a part of the job as arranging desksides with reporters. Ultimately, this is good -- both for our clients and the profession as a whole -- as it's helping to bring the PR industry out of the shadowy realm between marketing and advertising and into its own golden age.

Related: How Targeted Press Efforts Raise Your Bottom Line