It’s happening more and more and the years pass by – those contemplative moments when you look back and consider what’s changed in the world; reminiscing about how much a pint of beer was when I was in my teens (not too many decades ago, I’d like to say!) I even caught myself saying the dreaded words, “When I was a kid…,” the other day – a sure sign that times are moving too fast!
It got me thinking though about the day to day – what we do in PR and how the industry I’ve been immersed in and loved (ok, most of the time!) for well over a decade now has changed. How expectations have evolved, how content creation has moved on with demand and, most noticeably how the advent of social media has completely changed the landscape beyond recognition.
Gone are the days of faxing press releases to journalists, or sending off for your accompanying colour print photo to then stuff into an envelope with your press release to post. The long journalist lunch is a thing of the past and despite my protestations and desperation to cling on to diminishing face to face human contact, supplier and some client interactions are now seemingly moving to video conferences and similar.
It may be stating the obvious but the world feels like its spinning faster – interactions are now instant and in 140 characters in a lot of cases. News breaks and spreads like wildfire and it seems as if all filters are down when it comes to communication.
My thinking brought me full circle to hone in on the elements of PR that seem to me to have changed the most – and the humble Letter to the Editor stood out. In National and trade Press, it was always the sure fire route for clients to voice their contrary opinion to a recent news story, in a ‘fist-slamming on the table’ type tone that would get the discussion started and invite some dialogue in the marketplace. But more and more it seems the place for opinions such as these is online – on comment boards sitting at the foot of the article, within forums where enthusiastic allies or dissenters can come together and start the debate and of course, on Twitter where any voice is guaranteed its share of ‘air time’.
The traditional forms of communication still have a place, much like traditional forms of media. This is not a case for shouting the death of traditional communications, or rallying the cause for purely online and social media. It is more to share my realisation that the options for communication are not only now so vast but also so instant and constantly evolving.
However, instant communication can open up dangerous ground where content risks being unfiltered and ill-considered without the luxury of appropriate and relevant thinking time, or poor advice on the consequences of your latest published rant.
With the need for short-snappy and timely comment, communications can feel rushed and the scurry for an appropriate hashtag can be emotive and risk missing the mark. Putting pen to paper for a ‘Dear Sir’ letter to the editor allowed pause for thought and a concept that we should cling on to when we’re trying to get our message across.