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Erasing the line between traditional and digital why PR shops need to act now

|June 15, 2015
Written by

Rick Murray

There’s no line, anymore, between traditional and digital, offline or online. The two worlds have officially collided. Here’s a basic, real world example: I may order an Uber with my phone, but I get into a real car and am driven to a physical destination.

In the PR world, we may conceive of and develop a TV ad, but it’ll also live on YouTube (in fact, it had better live on YouTube, a lot more people will see it there). We might collaborate with clients to define a meaningful narrative, but then it needs to live on beyond sound bites and pieces in newspapers. It should come alive in social, on websites, via email and so on.

From the last gasp of the 1990s through to … well … recently, there was a hard stop between digital and traditional PR. Shops with words like “interactive” in the name cropped up. Large, established agencies and holding companies either spun-off digital arms or acquired them (this company included).

For a time, the tactic worked. Those who stayed with the mothership kept doing what they’d been doing and those in the spin-off focused on digital business such as developing websites, looking after online paid media and coming up with social media strategies.

But technology has disrupted everything, PR, marketing and advertising included. For example, those handling media relations have seen their contact list shrink as traditional media struggles with their own new reality. Those same media specialists have added bloggers and influential tweeters to their contact database, understanding a digital reach – a tweet, an Instagram post – can be just as meaningful (or more meaningful) than a couple inches in the paper.

Meanwhile, “monitoring” used to mean (a long time ago) clipping and collecting coverage. Now it can mean round-the-clock shifts to keep an eye on Twitter buzz or Facebook bashing.

All this to say having two separate entities – one that deals in digital and one that deals in the physical – no longer makes sense. There is no distinction. Successful communication professionals are the ones who see and acknowledge technical disruption and react to it, jump into it and change their behaviours. They need to know how to do what they’ve always done, but adjust the pillars of their practice to suit the needs of the new world.

“As SEOs and digital agencies see how important Digital PR is to their online marketing initiatives, the pressure for traditional PRs to fully embrace the digital side will increase,” writes in The Trends and Predictions for Digital PR in 2015.

PR firms (like this one) know the competition – including digital marketing and advertising agencies – will be eager to snap up any opportunity we don’t. That’s why it’s so important we move with the change.

So, it’s time to replace one retired buzzword – Interactive – with another – Integrated. The world around us has erased the distinction between offline and online and at NATIONAL, so have we.

——— Written by Rick Murray, former Managing Partner and Chief Digital Strategist at NATIONAL Public Relations, and now Managing Partner at SHIFT Communications, sister company of NATIONAL


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