Expanding Role of the PR Professional

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By Melissa Hoistion, Senior Account Executive, R&J Public Relations

I must admit that when I first started my career in PR, it was a much simpler time.  We looked up media contacts in the “Big Green Bacon’s Book.”  It was updated only once or twice a year and you only had a few sets for an entire agency.  You would pick up the phone and call reporters if you wanted to pitch them, or you could send a fax pitch, but that was frowned upon.

Now?  The Internet has completely changed the way PR professionals work, and what we do.  You can look up a reporter on Twitter and get everything they have written about or even thought of writing about in 5 minutes.  You want to pitch a story?  You can tweet pitch, email pitch, or fax pitch.  I’ve even had reporters who would prefer to get text messages..

PR has taken on many of the “new digital media” jobs as well.

Who best to handle social media but the PR Professional?  We already know the company or brand messaging, we know the audience we are positioning the products for and we are great at connecting with many different audiences.  In addition, it makes sense for your media relations effort and social media effort to be integrated.   You can promote certain products across all platforms at the same time to get a more cohesive targeted approach.

There is another aspect of digital media that PR professionals need to keep an eye on.  That is IRM or Internet Reputation Management.  What exactly is that?  It is knowing what is being said about your company or product online, and if necessary taking steps to protect or fix it.

How does this work?  You need to monitor blog posts, forums and social media sites for your company’s name and the names of popular products.  This again is a natural extension of PR’s role, as we are constantly monitoring news outlets.  However, besides monitoring there may be times when you have to act on posts/comments also.

As an example, we have a client for whom we monitor several consumer forums.  Consumers post questions about how to install or troubleshoot our client’s products.  We monitor them and send the questions to the tech support department who answers their questions.   After all, social media is about engagement, and if your customers are reaching out to you, you need to be there with information or answers.

So much has changed in PR.  But despite the many technological advances, it still comes down to connecting customers with brands, and nurturing those relationships through constructive engagement.  Distilled to its essence, that is what PR people have been doing for decades.

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