Recently, I attended a Business Wire breakfast session about the changing media landscape. In the session, Serena Ehrlich, director of social and evolving media, discussed how PR professionals can take advantage of the visibility provided by search and social media to increase the impact of their news programs.
While the fresh-squeezed orange juice and egg and bacon croissants were an added bonus, I also left with a ton of valuable information to shape the way I think about the evolution of PR. Here are a few key takeaways:
The World of Public Relations is Changing
It’s no surprise that PR is constantly changing, developing and adapting. As the world changes, PR pros must stay ahead of the curve to accommodate the audiences they want to reach. The rise of social media over the past decade has influenced consumers in a huge way. You may find it surprising, but a study from Pew Research says 62 percent of U.S. adults get news on social media, with 18 percent doing so very often. Additionally, consumers are much more likely to trust something they hear from a friend or someone they know and trust. If a social media user interacts with news information on a platform, their friends and followers are more likely to accept the information as news as well – working to the advantage of PR pros aiming to promote their brands.
The Modern Audience
Going hand-in-hand with the changing PR world is the modern audience. There’s no denying that consumers have changed and that social media has helped them along the way. Today, people are digitally driven, mobile addicted and visually fluent. They have high expectations, are confident, web savvy and resourceful. Consumers are smart and want to be even smarter, but most importantly, – PR pros take note – they want multimedia first.
We have known for years about the different types of learning styles, whether they be visual, auditory, read-write or kinesthetic (tactile). Thanks to the digital age, a high proportion of people are visual learners. Consumers crave visually pleasing materials and, especially on social media, gravitate to images or videos versus long-form articles. To accommodate the multiple types of learning styles, PR pros should include multimedia in the majority, if not all, of their content.
The digital age has also influenced the human attention span, which now lasts roughly just eight seconds. In fact, people process visuals 60,000 times faster than they do text. If you’re walking down the street and you see a frog, your brain almost instantaneously registers what it is before the word even pops into your head.
Additionally, multimedia adds feelings to facts, and smartphones have created multimedia experts. Consumers are becoming so visually fluent that experts believe 84 percent of communications will be visual by 2018. Already, people upload and/or share more than 3 billion photos daily with 9,000 photos per second uploaded to Snapchat. Monthly, people watch 6 billion hours of video on YouTube and nearly a quarter-trillion videos on Facebook.
Users are 40 times more likely to share visual content on social media than any other content, and Facebook multimedia posts see a 150 percent increase in engagement. Simply adding an image can do wonders for getting additional coverage.
As digital news has seen a sharp increase in recent decades, publications have reduced their reporting staffs. Reporters have very little time to spend searching for images to include in stories. When pitching to reporters, PR pros have a much higher chance of their news being picked up when they include multimedia assets.
Reporters often prefer quantity over quality, meaning they look for content that will receive the most clicks, shares and views. News releases with multimedia receive three times more views, coverage and activity, and articles with images receive 94 percent more views. News releases with an image get a 14 percent increase in page views. With photos and videos, that number jumps to 48 percent. Multimedia more often than not increases time spent on a site. It bonds readers and brands.
In Simplest Terms
Here are the three most important takeaways from Serena’s Business Wire session:
- Public relations is entirely different from the past and will continue to evolve long into the future.
- Thanks to the digital age and social media, the modern audience is much more visually fluent and craves multimedia.
- Finally, due to the increase in visual intelligence among consumers, reporters want multimedia in their stories, meaning that when pitching to reporters, it is always a good idea for PR professionals to include images or videos.
At M/C/C, we believe successful PR occurs when the customers and partners who can impact your business do just that. Sometimes that means generating press coverage or leveraging industry analysts. Sometimes it’s by communicating directly to customers through a blog or digital newsletter, being active on social media or writing search-friendly press releases. One thing to keep in mind through all of these practices, though, is that multimedia matters!