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Digital Marketing, News & Trends, Public Relations, Social Media - 4 April 2022

The Evolution of PR – A Train Accident to Tik Tok

As an established PR and communications agency for nearly two decades and a combined 150 years in the industry, our team has seen public relations develop considerably; from hand-delivering press releases, to sending the majority of communications via email, to the emergence of digital marketing.

From the very first press release, which was issued in 1906 following a Pennsylvania Railroad train accident, this type of written communication has been the go-to way to share news about your company. Originally, the process would involve typewriters and physically posting press releases along with hard copy photographs for next day delivery so journalists would receive them the morning.

The Western Mail newsdesk would receive 200-300 releases a day in the 90s – and sifting through them to select the best became a fine art. Releases were straight-to-the point with no frills required as the print market was far less saturated than it is today. Journalists didn’t need accompanying infographics, surveys and videos – just a well-written article. Clients didn’t need SEO, hyperlinks, digital marketing or social media, but a release written every few weeks if they had something to shout about.

In the 1980s, fax machine reached the height of popularity and proved a godsend for PR professionals. Assistants no longer had to dash across town to make the last post collection of the day, and instead everything could be done from inside the office. Granted, we had to put up with the screeching sounds emitted, but the humble fax machine revolutionised business communication.

The invention of the World Wide Web was just 31 years ago, and with it, the introduction of email, was a gamechanger for the industry. Gone were the necessary daily phone calls between journos and PRs, instead a much quicker email would get them all the information they needed immediately. Of course, it was still customary for a little follow up call to ensure all had been received and to maintain relations.

However, this new found ability to access the media instantaneously meant that journalists could be inundated with news, and PRs had to up their game and ensure their client releases stood out and included everything a journalist could want or need in order to publish the story as easily as possible. Getting a release to the right outlets was more important than ever, as irrelevant releases would be cast away faster than you can say Tom Hanks.

Alongside email was the growth of online publications; every print outlet now had an online equivalent, and some skipped the print and offered online exclusive content. As the audiences grew, the demand for more stories grew, and journos wanted releases that were ready to go – a quick copy and paste and they had an article up for millions to see in minutes. Releases were integrated more organically, so a reader would struggle to tell the difference between a news article and a press release.

The way agencies collated coverage changed as well; from ordering newspapers daily and trawling through each page searching for client mentions before using a trusted ruler to measure the column inches. Now, a quick search using dedicated media coverage software does the job.

Clients started asking more of their PR agency, needing to build their online presence more than anything else. Not just building and maintaining relationships with the media and issuing releases to outlets, PRs had to develop to address digital marketing needs: running social media accounts, building websites and analysing trends in order to continually grow.

As the online sphere has grown bigger and more omniscient, particularly through the Coronavirus pandemic, PR has evolved from a form of newsroom to an industry that addresses a wide range of needs. PR professionals are now journalists, graphic designers, videographers, social media managers, digital marketing executives, web designers, publicists, advertisers, data analysts, event managers, researchers and auditors, amongst other things!

After so many changes in our 17 years in the PR industry, we look forward to ever evolving, adapting and excelling in PR, and can’t wait to see what the next 17+ years bring.

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