PR, as we know it, has changed significantly over the years. 40 years ago we used to use a typewriter for writing press releases and postal service for delivery, then with the technology of fax machines the processes speeded up. After that came the computers and usage of e-mail and finally the digital media. Following this latest trend, the Middle East is experiencing a rapid growth in its daily usage of online platforms. In today’s PR world every organization is trying their utmost to effectively use the communication mix available to them. Having the ability to reach millions with one click of a button, is a new level in communication, and digital platforms enable us to communicate our message on a much greater scale and utilize our creative flair with the ability to add more visuals. Also, visual content has become a vital element in our communication strategies as it enables more engagement with our target audience by appealing directly to emotions.
Another crucial aspect of digital media are the effective measurement tools available, whereby consumer behavior can be monitored and tied directly to the bottom line. This offers industry professionals the ability to assess the effectiveness of their campaigns in achieving business objectives. Finally we can prove the effectiveness of the hard work put into awareness campaigns.
The leading users of digital media are the millennial generation. Born with a tablet in hand, these consumers are more comfortable in the cyberspace and they are fast becoming the major consumers in various markets. It is therefore ever more important for PR pros to keep abreast of the trends and opportunities arising daily, to stay ahead of the curve and stay relevant to the increasing demand of our target audience. The power has shifted. Communications is no longer driven by what brands have to say to their audience, it is driven by what that audience wants to hear and what is relevant to their needs. No more one-way communication. Consumers are no longer afraid to give feedback and it is powered by platforms like Twitter, where the world can see exactly what individuals think of brands. Customer service is the key and is one of the few elements that can give brands a competitive edge in today’s age. Digital media has blown the realm of thinking wide open and marketers and pros need to change tactics to keep up, ensuring that relevant information is available when a consumer is looking for it and offering information and content that adds value to the lives of our audience. The new age consumer knows what they want and comes to us – provided we can be found – and blocks out the intrusive advertising forms.
With the recent developments and the growth vision of the UAE, it’s safe to say that we are in the prime geographical location in the world with the UAE becoming the business and trade gateway between the East and West. This offers a unique advantage, having most print media publications reaching more than the traditional circulation numbers and touching base with both residents and visitors. Add to the mix, the lifestyle appeal and investment incentives and you have a recipe for continued growth, which has attracted global conglomerates into moving their head offices or at the very least open a regional office to establish a presence in the region. In doing so, these companies use a PR communication approach to create means for establishing brand recognition and awareness.
While Public Relations continues to evolve, one should not underestimate the value of the traditional PR channels. Having relevant and consistent content distributed through print media is still a widely appreciated approach by readers, especially in the Middle East. It adds credibility to a brand and elicits trust from the audience because it is not a paid channel. PR is also the “art of storytelling”, capturing the hearts and minds of your readership through the written word.
With the new digital trend in mind, the challenge every organization is going to face will be how to harness the power of both digital and print media channels. The question is how to make them work for each other. How to leverage one’s power with another and use it to the advantage of the brand while maintaining relevance to your audience? Ultimately, it is the strength of one’s communication effort that will be measured with the success of one’s engagement strategy between digital and print communications and the direct, measurable impact on the bottom line.