As you may be aware of by now, I earned my degree in public relations eleven years ago. Nine of those years were spent in a classroom where I thought I was putting my skills to good use daily. It wasn’t until I decided to apply to grad school and pursue a career in PR again that I realized how much had changed over the past decade. Now suddenly I find myself playing catch-up in a lot of ways but it also made me wonder about those who have been in PR for awhile. Have they stayed up-to-date on the latest trends and modes of communications, or have they stuck to what is tried and true? Here is what I’ve noticed that has changed and what has stayed the same.
Press Releases: Ahhh, the good old fashioned press release, it seems, has stood the test of time. When my professor asked the class to write a press release on the first day of class, I briefly panicked because I hadn’t written one in at least 10 years. Lucky for me (and my grade), not much has changed in the way of formatting and style. What has changed is the addition of the social media release. What’s that? This video by webitpr explains it in more detail but it is, essentially, a press release that includes digital content and links to enhance the press release for online media. This is perfect for pitching to bloggers or for those media sources that prefer online communication and social media versus the standard email. Shockingly enough though, there are many PR professionals who have never even heard of a social media release, much less used one. It’s time to crawl out from under that rock.
The Media: Gone are the days when media meant only degreed professionals in radio, television, newspapers and magazines. Newspapers are crumbling like week-old bread. Radio has been hit hard by digital and satellite music services. Television is watched online or through a DVR so commercials can be skipped, but overall is holding its own. Magazines are actually thriving. But now we have bloggers to contend with. Back in the day, a blogger was some lonely soul pouring out their heart in an online diary, or ranting about why Star Wars was better than Star Trek (they are wrong – Star Trek is far more intelligent). That still happens today, but many bloggers have found commercial success and turned it into a career. Some offer product reviews, some give fashion advice and some share recipes and craft ideas. What they all have in common is that they have utilized their blogs to become somewhat of an authority on whatever it is they are passionate about. Now anyone can be considered part of the media if their audience is what you want to reach. That also means that more research has to be done to find the appropriate media and develop those relationships.
Communications: I know this makes me sound super old but when I earned my degree, we had four ways of contacting a person – pick up the phone, use snail mail, send an email (with very small attachments) or go see them in person. Now multiply that by infinity and that’s how many different ways there are to contact a person today. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are the most popular but there are dozens of other social media access points to consider out there. Do you know what networks your contacts are in? If all you have is a Facebook page, then you really need to expand your horizons and start connecting. If you don’t even have that much, then you need to find a new profession because PR people are all over social media.
Design Software: I’m happy to see that Quark is still kicking but I was taken aback to discover that Adobe PageMaker is dead. InDesign seems to be where it’s at and it’s time to jump on board. This is one where I am working to catch up because I haven’t needed to use detailed design software in years and I’m a little rusty myself. If you need to catch up, like me, then check out your local community colleges for quick and cheap classes on the programs you need. You don’t need to run out and spend thousands of dollars on training at a university or technical school. I found a short session on InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and Dreamweaver for only $150 at some of the Dallas County Community College campus. Even cheaper than that is to search online for tutorial videos like this one: Adobe InDesign Tutorial.
As communications professionals, it’s imperative that we stay on top of our game and keep up with the latest trends in our industry. But if you get behind, and it is easy to do in this ever changing world of technology, then take a few minutes to stop and catch up. It’ll be easier to do as you go along than to suddenly wake up and realize that you’ve completely missed the boat.