At the end of the ’86 cult classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the film’s smooth-tongued hero imparted this pearl of wisdom: “Life moves pretty fast – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
It’s good advice that could well apply to the PR world. As someone who could politely be described as a PR ‘veteran’ (faxed press releases, anyone?), I’ve seen the communications landscape change dramatically – particularly since the internet age, and again more recently with the dawn of social media.
Digital has undoubtedly been a game changer. It has given us all the power to build a loyal following and exert influence on groups of people. That’s why today’s PR pro is every bit as likely to target bloggers as they are journalists –sometimes more so.
Digital has also put an end (thankfully) to things like cutting out press clippings from magazines. It’s PDFs and emailed links all the way.
Expensive product photo shoots and snail-mailing the pics are a thing of the past too. We can get snap happy with our mobiles and post high-quality digital shots on Facebook or Pinterest faster than it takes to book an old-school photographer.
And then there are all the social media platforms. It seems barely a month goes by without another new kid on the block vying for our attention, promising to be the Next Big Thing.
So what does all this have to do with Ferris’ nugget of advice? Well, PR life does move pretty fast. And he’s right – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Or more specifically, you could miss what’s important.
It’s very easy for communication professionals to get swept along with the latest fads, jumping from social media platform to social media platform, in the never-ending pursuit of effective stakeholder engagement.
But sometimes it’s worth taking a step back and reminding ourselves that for all the wonder of digital, some old-school PR truths remain.
No matter what channel you’re using, you’re going to need a strategy. Thousands of pictures on Pinterest mean nothing if there’s no thought to how this activity supports your business objectives.
Then there’s the message itself. It should be consistent and truthful – more important than ever in the digital domain, where a quick Google search can reveal any ‘discrepancies’ in your online output.
And as ever, the content needs to be engaging. It should be of real value to stakeholders. It should interest them. Be useful to them. Excite them, even.
So in actual fact, we’re still largely doing the same stuff we’ve been doing since the early days of PR. Just without all the envelope stuffing and paper cuts.