Celebrating World PR Day: PR’s evolution and future outlook

World PR Day

July 16th is celebrated as World PR Day! Public relations professionals often find themselves behind the scenes, crafting narratives, managing crises, and building relationships that shape public perception. Despite sometimes being misunderstood or underestimated, the role of PR is crucial. 

A study by Nielsen revealed that PR is almost 90% more effective than advertising in influencing consumers, highlighting its power in driving business growth. 

Many view PR as merely spin or publicity, overlooking its strategic importance in reputation management, crisis communication, and brand building. However, effective PR can make the difference between a brand that thrives and one that falters. 

Ahead of  World PR Day, we delve into how PR has evolved, the challenges we face today, the impact of AI, and the future of the industry.

From press to posts: We look at the transformation in PR ahead of World PR Day

The field of public relations was once primarily focused on managing the reputation and image of organisations through media relations and press releases. While this foundational aspect remains, the role of PR has expanded dramatically. With the proliferation of social media platforms and the growing demand for authentic and transparent brand communication, PR professionals have embraced new strategies and tools. This World PR Day, we deconstruct the evolution of PR so far.

As the landscape of media and communication has transformed, so too has the toolkit of the modern PR professional. Today, no PR professional is a stranger to advanced tools such as Hootsuite, Similarweb, and Meltwater. These platforms have revolutionised how we monitor media coverage, track engagement, and measure the impact of our efforts. The integration of these tools showcases just how dramatically PR has evolved.

For example, imagine a company facing a sudden product recall. With modern PR tools, the PR team can quickly gauge public sentiment, identify key influencers discussing the recall, and track the spread of information across various media channels. By leveraging these insights, the team can craft timely, targeted responses, engage with concerned customers, and manage the narrative more effectively. This proactive approach not only helps mitigate potential damage but also reinforces the company’s commitment to transparency and customer care, ultimately enhancing its reputation.

Reflecting on the early days of his career, Terng Shing, CEO of SYNC PR, recalls managing his first event for a composites brand. “We organised a press conference to discuss the growth of the industry in APAC. It helped me understand the actual work that goes behind something as straightforward as a press conference,” he shares. Nowadays, press conferences have largely shifted to digital platforms, with timely announcements through email or digital press conferences having the same impact as traditional physical events once did.

Akmal Hakim Adnan, a consultant at SYNC PR, fondly remembers planning and organising campaigns and events that received positive client feedback. “Knowing the job was well done and the clients were satisfied is what matters,” he says. He was introduced to tools like Meltwater and Traackr early in his career, which have since evolved significantly regarding stored databases and UI designs.

Sofea, another consultant at SYNC PR, recalls her first event, where she felt quite awkward and quiet, unsure of how to navigate the atmosphere. “Reflecting on how tools and strategies have evolved since I started, I find that not much has changed. However, there has been a notable shift towards integrating digital tools that streamline tasks and enhance efficiency in PR,” she notes

Sherby Dellenia, who began her PR career during the pandemic, saw the importance of virtual collaboration tools firsthand. “For the first year of my career, all events and interviews were conducted virtually. This made it apparent that effective communication and engagement could thrive in a digital space. However, when lockdowns eased and physical events resumed, I was introduced to a whole new side of PR, emphasising the power of face-to-face interactions and the nuances they bring to relationship-building,” she shares.

Challenges in PR

Despite significant advancements in PR practices, misconceptions about the function of PR and its contribution to organisational goals persist. This is particularly true in Asia, where traditional views of PR sometimes overshadow its strategic value. Many still see PR as a secondary function to marketing or advertising, rather than a critical component of business strategy. This misunderstanding can lead to underinvestment in PR, despite its proven ability to manage crises, build brand loyalty, and influence public opinion.

The rapid pace of technological advancement poses another challenge for PR professionals. Keeping up with emerging digital trends, understanding new algorithms, and adapting to ever-changing social media landscapes require continuous learning and agility. Additionally, the sheer volume of information and the speed at which news spreads can make it difficult to manage narratives and respond effectively in real time.real time. This is before we take the proliferation of fake news and misinformation into consideration.  For instance, a negative tweet can go viral in minutes, necessitating immediate and strategic response to mitigate potential damage. 

Terng Shing highlights that dealing with stakeholders was a significant challenge early in his career. “There is a skill to managing people, and being a consultant, there is a need to deal with personalities as much as dealing with actual strategy and execution,” he explains. Understanding clients’ expectations and definitions of success is critical to being an impactful consultant.

Akmal points out that a lack of preparation and communication often leads to misunderstandings with clients. “It’s generally better to over-communicate,” he advises, emphasising the importance of regular meetings to establish key points before delving into projects.

World PR Day

Sofea, reflecting on managing PR crises, shares, “The pressure to respond quickly and appropriately can be intense, requiring a calm approach, gathering all pertinent facts, and maintaining transparency throughout the process. My advice for overcoming PR challenges, especially during crises, is to stay calm under pressure, gather all relevant information promptly, and prioritise transparency in communications with stakeholders.”

Sherby Dellenia discusses the uncertainty in PR. “No matter how well a strategy is planned and executed, things outside our control can quickly change the game. Whether it’s sudden shifts in the market, unexpected decisions from clients, or shifts in public opinion, these factors can shake up the success of our projects. Given the unpredictable nature of our industry, my advice is to embrace flexibility and resilience. Stay agile in your approach to planning and executing strategies, allowing room for adjustments as external factors evolve.”

Vidya, another consultant at SYNC PR, mentions client management as her biggest challenge. “Joining PR made me see the different types of people and clients we meet daily. Some are super cool to work with, and others make you want to rip your hair out. However, the solution to this is understanding that not a single approach works for every client. It’s crucial to understand the clients in and out to better manage them because they are just people who want the best for their business.”

Ian Sin adds, “I’m still struggling slightly with communicating with annoying clients, but I’ve adapted by having more patience and trying to view the situation from their perspective.”

We examine the impacts of AI on PR this World PR Day

As part of this technological evolution, AI has sparked both excitement and apprehension within the PR industry. Many fear that AI will replace or disrupt traditional PR practices, rendering human expertise obsolete. However, such fears are unfounded — at least they still are. While AI certainly presents opportunities for streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency, its value lies in complementing rather than replacing human intelligence.

AI tools can handle repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as media monitoring, data analysis, and even content creation to some extent. This automation allows PR professionals to focus on more strategic and creative aspects of their work. Despite these advancements, the essence of PR—building relationships and crafting compelling narratives—still relies heavily on human creativity and intuition. AI can provide the tools and data necessary to inform strategies, but the ability to tell a story that resonates on an emotional level is uniquely human.  

“AI has been very useful, but it has to be seen as a tool rather than a replacement,” says Terng Shing. He uses AI for research and breaking down longer documents into key points, then applies his experience to develop the final product for clients.

Similarly, Akmal finds AI particularly helpful in identifying topics and discussions for articles. “It’s a great tool for identifying gaps in certain topics. Of course, there are also ways on how to use it ethically and responsibly,” he notes.

Sofea mentions that AI has significantly transformed her daily tasks in PR, making processes more efficient and saving time. “While AI tools are incredibly useful, I believe they should complement rather than replace human expertise. The human touch remains essential in PR, particularly in crafting messages and strategies that resonate authentically with audiences.”

Sherby highlights the apprehension about job displacement but sees AI’s integration as reinforcing PR professionals’ expertise in driving impactful communication strategies. “AI’s integration allows PR professionals to allocate more energy towards strategic decision-making and crafting compelling narratives,” she says.

Vidya adds that AI hasn’t changed much in how she approaches her tasks but has been very helpful in ideation. “Sometimes PR tasks can be a little repetitive daily, so the tendency to feel burned out or out of ideas is very high. Hence, I find PR tools very helpful in terms of ideation and, of course, the tedious tasks such as paraphrasing, grammar checking, etc.”

Ian Sin finds AI extremely useful for generating ideas, particularly when suffering from writer’s block. “It saves you time and helps you come up with new ideas,” he says.

The future outlook

As we gaze into the crystal ball of PR’s future, this World PR Day, it’s clear that while technology will evolve and trends will come and go, the fundamentals of storytelling and relationship-building will endure. The future of PR in Southeast Asia, and beyond, will likely involve an even greater integration of advanced technologies, but the core principles will remain the same.

Let’s embrace the unknown, adapt to the ever-shifting landscape, and continue to craft narratives that resonate long after the headlines fade. As we do so, we will not only stay relevant but also drive meaningful connections and impactful stories.

Celebrating our PR experts this World PR Day

In honour of World PR Day, we also take a moment to celebrate the dedicated professionals whose hard work, creativity, and expertise fuel our agency’s success. Their commitment to excellence and passion for storytelling are the cornerstones of our achievements.

So, here’s to our PR heroes—past, present, and future. Your efforts make a lasting impact, shaping perceptions and building bridges in an ever-changing world. Happy World PR Day!

Inspired by our PR heroes? Discover how we can help your business thrive by leveraging PR. Contact us today at hello(a)syncpr.co to start creating your success story.

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