Apparently, if you remember the ‘60s you weren’t really there. I was fortunate enough to interview one of the decade’s iconic figures, George Best, many years later. He had played in the first football match I ever attended, but when I asked him about that day he had no recollection of playing or in fact having ever been in the city in question before. In many respects it is the fabled quote turned on its head: A ‘60s icon who didn’t remember a ‘70s football match he played in, but he was of course ‘there’.
This memory lapse simply wouldn’t be allowed to happen today. Everything is digitally recorded seemingly for posterity and every public movement of a top celebrity is captured for millions to ruminate over.
The digital revolution means we are light years away even from the declining years of the 20th Century, which in newspapers themselves were fairly revolutionary as they moved from the typewriter to computer and black and white composition to full-colour press.
But has the media and PR really changed?
People have consumed news by all accounts since prehistoric times when hunter-gatherers would share their day’s activities around the evening campfires.
Our desire to know what is happening firstly in our local environment and then on a global scale has not abated since then and it was this thirst for news which paved the way for switched-on people to maximise commercial and other opportunities by word of mouth and then via the printed word.
By the time traditional media had reached its zenith in the 20th Century, PR as we now understand it was born, thriving and thrusting.
This was the case until the advent of the internet and its multi-faceted offspring Social Media which heralded the new millennium in an altogether different way.
Now all is social. Newspapers have declined, died and reinvented themselves as online portals. And social media ‘stars’ have been born, many commanding substantial fees for insight into the minutiae of their lives. Lives are conducted on a digital basis.
So all has changed.
Or, in fact, has it?
Certainly, the methods and mechanisms are different – they have to be – but the principles remain the same.
Firstly you have to ‘find’ the story in the way journalists and PRs have done for decades. Then you ‘pitch’ the story – albeit this now includes a range of online options – to your contacts/suitable outlets. Then you ‘gauge’ the response and ‘value’ the end result.
If it is done properly it can be tremendously effective and much more so than traditional advertising. If something is mentioned in a news or feature story it has far greater cachet than something does in an advertising-only format. It is the public’s belief that in an ostensibly objective report they will find the truth; in a paid-for advert, they will not.
Online this also holds true – maddening pop-ups will attract a fraction of the interest generated by carefully placed stories, using bang up to date techniques to ensure the audience is the right one. Mass-market marketing, or blanket advertising, will certainly reach more people but the response percentages are infinitely lower.
In the PR industry, the main change has been the necessity to incorporate (and in many cases focus exclusively on) online solutions. The line between PR and Marketing has, in the process, grown increasingly thin and often businesses seeking media services struggle to tell the difference, being baffled in the process by industry terminology.
The reality is if simplicity comes to the fore and we go back to basics – story, audience, delivery and result – it’s irrelevant whether it is 1977 or the present day.
The key is mastering the behind-the-scene, undeniably formulaic, tools.
Best didn’t remember the match, but the thousands who were in attendance most certainly did. If you market a product that reaches and affects a desired number of people in a positive way then you have achieved your aim. It doesn’t matter whether it is online, in a newspaper or on a cold, wet winter’s night in a football stadium. Platforms change, the method stays the same.
About the Author:
Gordon Walker has worked in the UK media industry for more than 25 years as a journalist on regional and national newspapers and as the owner/director of a niche PR firm. Get in touch with Gordon…
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