The Expansion & Globalization of PR
If there’s anything that a pandemic has taught the global community as a whole, it is that communication roles and media relations are now more pertinent than ever. As we rely on and expect up to date news on politics, local and international violence, and diseases, the art of communicating is becoming broader and the job of those in communications is becoming more expansive. Public relations specifically has not only learned to encompass a variety of growing skills and abilities, but has evolved to handle more global and timely communication.
The first press release was published in 1906 on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad after experiencing an accident with one of the company’s trains. However, just a little over a century later, the role of the public relations practitioner has grown to include much more than writing a press release for the local newspaper or talking to journalists in hopes that they will cover an event. Press events, like those Apple is able to get thousands of people excited for every year, are public relations tactics in their foundation, but incorporate event planning and media creation like films and dynamic presentations. Publicity stunts are also considered a public relations idea, but go hand in hand with marketing practices. Even on a smaller scale, public relations professionals are learning to design websites, make animated and live action videos, and design digital content all to accomplish branding or imaging initiatives. While that allows brands to have more creative content to share with their audience, this expansion of job responsibilities can overwhelm current professionals trying to learn the ins and outs of new media while students and budding practitioners are competing to put the most skills on their resumes in hopes that it will result in being picked over other candidates.
The digital age allows news, events, and rumors to spread to a global audience in a matter of minutes. History and the media have demonstrated that this can be for better or for worse. For example, when the murder of George Floyd was filmed and posted online, it reached global audiences that protested and rallied for the murderers to be brought to justice. This worldwide outcry eventually led to the police officer responsible for Floyd’s death to be charged with murder. There is a history of police brutality cases not receiving the legal justice they deserve, but the global protest for Floyd made this exception possible.
In contrast, while the Black Lives Matter Movement peaked in the summer of 2020, hundreds of companies rushed to release their statements in support of the movement. While some companies, like Ben & Jerry’s, are consistently outspoken about social justice issues and therefore seemed sincere with their statement, other companies that have historically appropriated black and indigenous culture, like Dolls Kill, were called out on their hypocrisy after making posts in support of the protests. Public relations professionals try to be as timely as possible when releasing a statement to help a company take a stance on an issue because they recognize the global implications of failing or refusing to do so.
The act of communicating with other people is constantly changing. The pandemic forced our communities to communicate over Zoom and by phone, and quickly moving trends on TikTok and Twitter allows users to get messages around the world in minutes. The new speed of communication means that people whose jobs are to communicate effectively are having to stay on top of the moving narrative in order to best represent their company. The role of the public relations practitioner continues to change with the rise of digital media because effectively communicating with others is integral to the foundation of society.
Written by: Alia Ervin