The present chatter about the death of the newspaper, the demise of media, etc., is tragically overblown. Certainly, change is taking place in the media industry, but the fundamentals of public relations are not changing all that much.

Are local newspapers failing and closing?  You bet.  Are local newspapers disappearing completely?  I seriously doubt it.  People value trusted sources of information and will gravitate toward those that best serve their personal or professional interests. 

And believe it or not, I think people are willing to pay for traditional journalism as we know it today.  The newspapers that figure it out soon are likely to remain the information authority in their markets.  Elsewhere, the laws of supply and demand will usher in new brands in different packages, but selling the same old stuff: the news.

Regardless of the results of the latest shakeout, the challenge for PR will remain the same: reach your target audience and articulate your product’s or service’s value proposition through the filter of a third party.  The rules of engagement and relative levels of risk may change slightly, but the goal basically remains the same.  

What is changing is measurement — moving beyond column inches, advertising equivalency, impressions and all of the other approximations that have become the standard fare of PR reporting.

The silver lining of this upheaval will be better methods to demonstrate the ROI of PR programs.  What we are able to infer and measure through the tools that have sprouted up around social platforms are just the tip of the iceberg. To finally connect PR’s impact or influence on sales could revolutionize the profession.  If you’re worth your salt, this should not scare you.

Practically speaking, this won’t happen overnight. The industry needs to evolve methods of measurement and educate stakeholders over time.  

One of the first steps is a move toward using qualitative measures as a means for making quantitative measures more meaningful.  With the rise of multimedia, we can track and compare the various elements that result from PR efforts.  Consider some of the information in a recent Wired blog regarding the rise of video content on media sites:

  • Video increases audience engagement or the length of time spent on a Web page – greater exposure to a message is equated with greater influence

  • Online video increases click through rates – an effective call to action

PR professionals should start to value programs or placements that contain multimedia elements more than one-dimensional elements.  Likewise, programming efforts should recognize the increased value of these outcomes and fund the resources that drive and support them.  

This is the general direction of things to come.  The interconnected nature of online properties and their potential to integrate with related communications and marketing initiatives will make PR’s role ever more important and complex.  Likewise, those in the profession that can keep pace with the change will become measurements of success.

— Kevin Sangsland

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