Tech is revolutionising a wide variety of industries as the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 league table shows. Marketing and public relations is no different.
When I first started out in public relations, standard practice was to fax out press releases and stick captions on the back of photos before posting them to picture desks. Clippings were cut out of newspapers and glued onto A4 sheets as part of client reporting. Account information was printed out and stored in an office filing cabinet, while media databases were in paper format only.
Mobile phones were available but they didn’t have apps or cameras. Networking was done over lunch or at events.
Fast forward twenty or so years and new technology has enhanced our capabilities and created a vast array of opportunities. Here are four significant areas of change that show how thanks to Silicon Valley, practitioners have never had it so good.
#1 Business practices
One of the biggest areas of learning from Silicon Valley has to be agile leadership. Many public relations and marketing practitioners have watched companies like Facebook and Twitter go from strength to strength, as well as start ups like Yo and Periscope grow and thrive.
The lesson has been clear; disruption leads to opportunity and those that adapt quickly to market and operational changes and are resourceful in the face of change can gain significant market ground.
There’s also a lesson around failure too. One of Google’s sayings is: ‘fail fast and fail forward’. Businesses who learn from their mistakes and move on quickly are much more likely to succeed next time around.
Practitioners can work quickly and efficiently from anywhere as long as they have access to a smartphone and Wi-Fi. Cloud technology means that client data can be securely stored and accessed at the touch of a button.
The quality of our work has been significantly enhanced too. Forget the hard copy databases or the little black book of contacts developed over years, a burgeoning market of third party tools now help practitioners identify influencers around a product, topic or issue in a network within a matter of minutes just by going online.
Tools such as Bluenod, Lissted and Traackr are just a few examples of planning tools enabling practitioners to identify and engage successfully with communities that matter to their employers and clients.
For those focused on media relations, the painful days of creating clipping books are no more – Coveragebook.com and its competitors pull together coverage into simple reports in less than quarter the time it would take to do it manually.
Reputation management has also been revolutionised. Listening tools such as Brandwatch and Sysomos allow professionals to monitor mentions of a brand, product or service across different forms of media and offer reach and scale.
You don’t even have to look far to find tools and work out what to use them for either. I’ve written before in this column about #PRstack, a free app which allows practitioners to search according to the goal of a campaign. This has been so popular within the industry, a second #PRstack book giving further ‘how-to’ advice has just been published, meaning there’s no excuse not to put the latest tech to good use and make your own life easier.
Technology continues to transform how marketing and public relations practitioners actually work. A gradual shift is taking place away from management by Excel spreadsheets to collaborative environments such as Slack and Asana.
Let’s take Slack as the example. Slack puts all communication and content in a single place for a team whether internal or both agency and client-side. Open channel conversations create transparency and ensure everything is trackable. What’s more, these types of communication tools index the content of files so you can easily search within PDFs, Word and Google documents, creating real efficiencies. There’s no excuse for organisational silos any more.
#4 Social media
The rise of digital has arguably created the biggest disruption for the marketing and PR industry in recent years.
Social media enables public relations practitioners to connect organisations with publics in the widest sense. Platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn have generated the most significant opportunity for modern public relations practice that we’ve had in more than a generation.
As practitioners we have been quick to focus on the reputational impact of social media on organisations and to use it as a means to disseminate corporate messaging but the future could hold much more.
By using monitoring tools to understand conversations that are taking place we can deliver powerful insights to an organisation. These insights are valuable not just to communication teams but other departments within an organisation such as marketing, sales, product development, research, human resources and customer service.
Working smarter, not harder
Wherever you are in the technology curve, being in marketing and public relations has never been so exciting if you look at the opportunities and data that today’s tools provide. The insight at our fingertips is better than ever, increasing the value we’re able to add. Two-way dialogue is more achievable now than it has ever been.
Using the latest technologies can provide competitive advantage but public relations and marketing practitioners can be slow to grasp the nettle. With so many tools to choose from, there’s no real excuse not to continually review working practices. After all, who doesn’t want to work smarter, not harder? Agile leadership is achievable if you watch and learn.
This article first appeared on the Hiscox business blog in September 2015.