Matt co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s product strategy and development.
I feel fortunate to have been born at the exact moment in time that I was. It has been fascinating watching the world move from analog to digital. (Yes, I was alive before email.) So many of the things that once involved paper; faxes, phone books, job applications, paychecks and a host of others are all digitized. I can no longer imagine using a paper dictionary. There isn’t a pen on my desk. I don’t even know if I own one. The shift from offline to on, by itself would have been a remarkable thing to see, but that’s not all folks. The pace of change is accelerating as we adjust to a world where things are smart, where connectivity is ubiquitous and where big data surrounds, delights and frightens us. Almost no part of modern life, or business has been immune to profound and lasting change. Public relations is no exception. The tools of the trade have been swept up by the wave of progress. Let’s look at where we started, where we are and where we might be headed.
When Cut and Paste Involved Scissors and Glue
One might say that the first public relations tool was a pair of scissors. In London, sometime in the mid 1850’s, a newsstand operator noticed that local actors, writers, musicians, and artists would stop by to look for articles about themselves in the publications he offered. He realized that this presented a business opportunity and the world’s first press clipping service was born. Scissors remained the public relations tool of choice until radio and television gained popularity in the 20th century and audio and video tape recording systems became essential.
It’s hard to believe it, but the first firm to offer monitoring of Internet based media, WebClipping, didn’t do so until 1998. That’s probably because the early days of the Internet (Web 1.0) were more about digitizing brochures and less about real-time, interactive content. Oh, how things change.
Digital, Mobile, Social … Oh My!
Modern public relations tools are all about making sense out of the massive amount of content that lives on the internet. Every brand now must track earned, owned and social media. The best PR tools help PR professionals and teams, understand the media landscapes of their brand and industry, identify opportunities for coverage and analyze the outcome based results of their efforts. The tools not only help improve results, but they help prove ROI and justify investment in public relations in a time of tight budgets and competition for resources. Like the internet itself, great PR tools are interactive and available from anywhere, on any device. Customizable real-time alerts and notifications are essential for success in today’s always-on PR climate.
Everything Gets Smarter
You’ve likely heard about the coming, “Internet of Things,” where most everything physical has a digital component. Your tooth brush will be able to tell your dentist how often you use it. Your refrigerator will tell you to toss the spoiled milk. Everything will just be, well, smarter. We’re certian that public relations tools will get smarter too. The big data analytics in use by the most sophisticated systems today to measure past results, will become predictive analytics. We’ll be able to instantly predict the impact of an earned media mention as soon as it is published. Predictive analytics will help guide the strategy of PR pros in a whole new way.
Business expert Peter Drucker was right when he said, “The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.” But, from what we’ve seen so far, public relations tools have adapted well to a profoundly changed world. We have every reason to expect that they’ll continue to evolve to meet the challenges of tomorrow.