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The unedited, unscripted and live world of PR

The evolution of digital and the rollercoaster ride that was 2016 have pushed PR and communications into new territory. Unedited, unscripted and live content is becoming the norm and this represents.

Ahead of the region’s celebration of PR campaigns, the PR Awards, Marketing spoke with senior judges on the awards panel, Leela Barrock, group head, communications at Sime Darby and Rachana Panda, chief communications officer and citizenship leader at GE South Asia General Electric about the state of the industry in 2017 and what makes a winning campaign.

Marketing: What’s the best example of a winning communications strategy or moment from 2016?

Leela Barrock: If I had to choose, it would be between Brexit and Trump’s election campaign. Not because Trump’s campaign stood for a greater good, or the fact that I was privy to some of the inner thinking of the Brexit plan. They were both winning strategies because they were impactful and unapologetic. In any successful PR campaign, knowledge and understanding of your stakeholders is key. In both instances, they knew who their stakeholders were, including their fears and frustrations. They were able to leverage on public sentiment and galvanise social media. They messaged directly to their stakeholders using social media powerfully. Their targets were clear and objectives met.

Rachana Panda: One campaign that really stood out and reached the White House was the mannequin challenge making rounds since last year. It is remarkable how it has been able to involve a myriad of audiences. I have always believed in the simplicity of ideas and this campaign is a fantastic example of power of ideas. Simplicity matches creativity.

Marketing: Where will PR exist in companies’ internal structure in 2017 and beyond?

Leela Barrock:  Wittingly or unwittingly, companies are now communicating to a global audience. PR will continue to be a core element of internal structures as they choose to adopt leaner teams and engage elaborate social media strategies. Companies that are industry stewards, and at the forefront of complex issues, would do well to have an effective PR team that is dynamic, proactive and able to quickly adapt to changing needs. As it stands, we can already see a rise in insurgent behaviour in PR campaigns and strategies. To engage effectively, teams will need to be able to play offense and defense simultaneously.

Social media is not an option, it should be treated as a principal communications channel.

Rachana Panda: Public Relations is here to stay however I believe it will take new directions and this could happen at two levels.

Communications as a function is increasingly seen as a leadership function and one where communicators can become future CEOs. A communications leader becomes a strategy leader who strategically aligns the communications priorities with the business priorities.

Another direction that the PR function is already heading towards is to become a highly knowledge-based function. It continues to be the pulse of the organisation, proactively monitoring trends, issues and conversations. This function has great potential by using data to manage reputation and plan relevant strategy.

Marketing: With the increase of live, unedited, unscripted content, how will communications professionals manage reputation and prevent crises in real time?

Leela Barrock: Conventional approaches to PR will remain. However, communications professionals must appreciate that two very key things have changed. Firstly, the proliferation of new communication channels have opened up a ‘parallel universe’, a playing field where the rule book of the past no longer applies. Being aware that the very channels you seek to leverage can equally be used against you is vital.

Secondly, to appreciate that stakeholders can no longer be kept behind closed doors. Discussions that are deemed private and confidential can easily find their way into the public domain. The net result is learning to be on your toes 24/7.

Rachana Panda: Managing issues today is about minutes and seconds. And first you must understand that and train yourself to be ready not just from the point of view of traditional media but mainly on the digital and social media spaces, because that’s where a small issue can turn into a crisis. Then it is all about how effectively and meaningfully you engage with influencers that matter whether that be editors, influential bloggers, policy makers or NGOs.

Marketing: How will the measurement of PR evolve?

Leela Barrock: Measurement will develop into more complex quantitative and qualitative analytics. We can already see the value of sentiment monitoring and the use of algorithms for PR projection. In the future, there will be less reliance on conventional press coverage. Media impressions, social media mentions and website traffic will continue to be a major source of measurement on top of content analysis, lead sourcing and market surveys. New tech innovations and influencers will speed up information dissemination, the ability to scale up campaigns and the capability to reach target stakeholders with bespoke messaging and content.

Rachana Panda: Gone are the days when everything was limited to the size of the story or share of voice. Today it is about how effectively your message and how you can track it through analytics. It is also about the role of communications in impacting perceptions for example in analysing the role of communications when conducting a reputation audit and assessing how communications has favourably or not so favourably impacted the desired shift in perception. It is also about using and reusing content in a smart way and putting in place measurement metrics that help analyse the reach of the campaign.

Marketing: What will impress you the most when selecting the winning campaigns for the PR Awards 2017?

Leela Barrock: Fluidity. The ability to look at a situation and decide that we need to throw out the rule books and handle something differently. Brave. Bold. Fresh.

Rachana Panda: I’m looking for two things: Is the campaign aligned to the business priority or reputational objective? The campaign needs to have clearly spelled out measurement metrics to assess its efficacy.

Finally, I will look for creativity. How creatively has the winning campaign used minimum resources for maximum impact.

Make sure you submit your best communications work from the past year for the PR Awards. 30 categories are open with gold, silver and bronze trophies up for grabs and winners will be crowned at a ceremony with over 300 professionals from the region at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore.

To get involved with the awards please contact Carlo Reston on +65  9727 0291/+65 6423 0329 or at carlor@marketing-interactive.com