To be an authority on digital channels as much as traditional print or broadcast, todayâ€™s PR professionals, whether in-house or in an agency, need to be fluent in â€śspeaking geekâ€ť. Itâ€™s a significant challenge for PR professionals to be on top of emerging social networks, the latest online news sites and manage big data, which requires constant learning and education. But those who are skilled experts in this field as part of the PR role will have the most exciting career opportunities ahead of them, as they are able to speak the language that employers need today.
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Last year, there were 332 million registered users on LinkedIn, 500 million Tweets sent per month and 1.35 billion Facebook users. The way I see it, social media is no longer bolt-on media and is simply part of the evolving landscape of todayâ€™s PR industry.
In Asia, besides the perpetual growth of mainstream sites such as Facebook, new start-ups are also emerging. China is a great example, where just a few years ago Renren was king but has since been replaced by Weibo and subsequently WeChat.
Itâ€™s more than just knowing your way around Facebook or Instagram. At the incredible pace that social media changes, the challenge for PR professionals is to diligently develop and hone skills to map a digital communications strategy, oversee its execution, analyse the results and demonstrate a deep knowledge of digital channels.
Keeping ahead with online media
While magazines and newspapers remain a crucial part of any PR strategy, their online counterparts and new internet-only media are steadily growing in numbers and readership. On one hand this represents a great opportunity for a PR professional â€“ more media means more opportunities for coverage, particularly as traditional publications shrink in size.
â€śDigital, social and mobile continue to grow in strength and importance, expanding and diversifying the Asia media landscape. Whatâ€™s exciting is that this change provides brands and agencies more ways to communicate and engage with stakeholders and communities,â€ť said Andy Oliver, senior vice president (APAC) at LEWIS PR.
But the increase in online news outlets also means that the velocity and reach of information and mis-information is faster and goes further than ever before, which can mean a small issue very quickly escalates into a crisis. As Warren Buffet once claimed, â€śIt takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.â€ť
Learning all about big data
Gone are the days where PR professionals could just make informed estimates about audience demographics and interests. Agencies and corporations today are pushed to find PR talent that are capable of working with big data to drive more targeted campaigns.
PR professionals need to find the connection between the art of communications and the science of data. The link between the two helps craft the right message for the right audience through the right channel, resulting in a more effective outcome for a PR campaign â€“ and ultimately a happier client.
As social media, online news and big data increasingly become part of the way we all do business, more companies are hiring â€śdigital expertsâ€ť to monitor, build and protect the organisationâ€™s reputation online. According to the 2014 Annual Spencer Stuart and Weber Shandwick study, 73% of global CCOs are hiring digital experts. But with or without a digital expert in the team, it is the job of PR professionals to stay on top of digital changes and â€śspeak geekâ€ť. Only through actively learning and adopting 2.0 skills will PR professionals continue to command higher salaries and more benefits and ensure that they are trusted advisers for clients and senior management.
The writer is Emma Dale, Co-Founder and managing director (Asia) atÂ Prospect,Â a global talent resource consultancy within the PR and corporate communications sector with offices in London, Hong Kong and Singapore. ProspectÂ isÂ silverÂ sponsor of the PR Awards 2015.
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