Last week I visited my old University. I was there to hear a panel discuss the blurred lines between PR and marketing. It had been 15 years since my last visit, when I was an excited and green 21-year-old PR graduate with confidence to burn and the world at my feet. So much has changed since then. A number of life changing events been experienced. Yet while I’ve seen huge changes in my personal life it doesn’t compare to that of the transformative PR world.
I was seated behind a row of PR students. Young and curious, some giggled and rolled their eyes as the panel spoke. Some casually typed away on their Macbooks while intermittently checking Facebook. Others asked informative questions on the convergence of PR and digital marketing. As I sat there furiously taking notes in my old school exercise book I wondered what my 21-year-old self would have made of all of this. That girl who:
- didn’t own her own mobile
- relied on the household’s one computer with failing internet connection to do all her assignments
- had to high tail it into Uni on countless occasions to submit hard copies of assignments
- had never heard of Google, the term ‘blogger’ or even MySpace
- spent hours standing at the fax machine in her first part-time PR job sending out media releases. Then she’d deposit her pay cheque at the bank on her lunch break
- who landed her dream job in the publicity department of a film distribution company by sending a letter in an actual envelope through the post
- who wasn’t distracted by social media but spent hours procrastinating on the landline having hour long phone conversations with friends
You could be forgiven for thinking this was 30 years ago not 15.
One of the speakers, a PR veteran highlighted the changes she had witnessed in the industry in her time and how she had to adapt and get used to a new way of working. It made me think about what the students sitting in front of me would witness. Will they learn the art of traditional media relations or will their focus lie solely on the digital world.
When I was at Uni we were taught that the definition of PR was the effective communication between an organisation and its public. This is still fundamentally correct, but 15 years on the ways of communicating are now endless and the speed at which a message travels could never have been predicted. This provides both opportunity and challenges for PR Practitioners and a much fuzzier line between the role of PR and marketing.
The other major change is the traditional media. With far smaller news rooms and news being churned out at a much faster rate PR Practitioners have had to lift their game to ensure their stories get noticed. They have also had to expand their media lists to include online publications, bloggers and online influencers. Not to mention get their heads around the ease of self-publishing and using it to their advantage. Fifteen years ago DIY PR was unheard of; today more and more business owners are working out ways they can feature in the media without engaging a PR professional.
So what does all this mean? What does the future hold for those PR students? Will they witness the same amount of change and growth that I have in just 15 years? No doubt they will. One thing is for sure, just like me their careers will never be boring, always changing and challenging. It can be guaranteed that as long as they are open to change, are always curious about learning, interested in keeping on top of best practises and most importantly adaptable they are in for one exciting ride.