Public Relations pulse: old-school meets new media

Public Relations pulse: old-school meets new media

There’s no doubt that digital media has altered the public relations landscape forever. Given this reality, what does the current world of PR and corporate communications look like?

In this week’s edition of the digital literacy series, Adam Dooley (@adamdooley), President of Winnipeg-based Dooley Communications, offers his insight into the current pulse of the industry, including:

  • Why there’s still room for traditional media
  • How the current old-meets-new reality is creating a demand for a new breed of PR professionals with a modern skill set

Dooley Communications provides senior level corporate communications and public relations services that bridge old-school PR principles with today’s fast-paced new media tools.

How has digital media changed the field of public relations and corporate communications?

Digital media has forced a great deal of change on to public relations and corporate communications professionals. Websites are now the core of just about every communications effort. Together with social media, they can quickly magnify the impact of what we’re trying to do. That can be good if it’s enhancing what we’re trying to do, and it can be bad if digital media is amplifying a crisis.

On the personnel side of the equation, digital media has also led to a rapid expansion of personnel devoted to things such as search engine optimization, content creation, social media management. That has complicated our jobs in a good way.

Can you elaborate on the mix of traditional and new media public relations and communications services you provide? Can you provide an example of how you do this?  

Media and public relations tools

Our clients call on us to influence opinion or behaviour of certain target audiences. We use all the tools we have at our disposal as creatively and effectively as we can. That means using traditional media relations, speaking engagements, events and other time-tested tactics. But we also use social media to try to amplify the impact of all those things. We also regularly use social media vehicles on their own to reach out to target audiences. Many of the most active and popular social media participants are also key influencers in the broader community, so it’s important that we try to engage them in conversations. Anything you can do in real life can be mirrored in digital media. But where a meet up in Winnipeg has the potential to reach dozens or hundreds of people, a meet up on Facebook or Google+ or YouTube can reach millions.

We recently hosted an event for our client Ford of Canada where we set up a Skype presentation with local app and software developers to learn how to build apps that can run on Ford’s in car voice-activated SYNC system. We promoted it via social media (, Twitter, LinkedIn) and via mainstream media. Our efforts delivered us a small audience of key influencers in that space, secured some advance chatter about the event and delivered several Tier 1 media hits including CTV Winnipeg (the number one station in our market). After the event, we were able to maintain the chatter about the event by using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to rebroadcast the media hits and blog posts that resulted. That’s a very simple example of how we always integrate digital media with our traditional media relations outreach.

Given the incredible prevalence of digital media, why do you believe there is still a place for traditional media? What are the benefits of using a strategy that’s a mix of both?

People still watch the six o’clock news and they still read the newspaper. People also still get together in groups for lunches and dinners and charity golf tournaments or fundraising walks. We do not see ourselves as solely media relations professionals. We embrace a much broader vision of public relations. That means getting our clients’ messages out in front of real, live people. It doesn’t matter to me if those people are standing in front of my client or sitting at a keyboard or holding a smartphone. If the tactic works and makes sense, we’ll use it.

From your unique perspective, why should businesses be digitally literate? Why must digital media have a place in today’s public relations and communications strategies?

We always take a very disciplined approach to designing the right strategies with the right tactics for our clients. Whatever we’re recommending needs to fit that client’s mission, vision, core values, short and long-term objectives, and brand. For that reason, I wouldn’t say that digital media is a ‘must’ for every organization, though I admit it’s hard to imagine a case where a website at least wouldn’t be a core communications tool. An overwhelming majority of basic consumer research and daily activity has moved online. Whether you’re shopping for a car or reading the news, you’re likely doing it online. That means our clients need to be in that space in order to spread their messages while also listening to their audiences’ needs.

What trends do you see emerging in the digital landscape, especially as it pertains to PR?

I think the personnel explosion is just beginning in PR. The demands from content creation, social media moderation and management, and search engine optimization are huge. I think it will result in a hiring boom and a significant reallocation of marketing budgets towards PR, which is the natural manager of social media for corporations and other organizations.

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