By Kate Alexander, Consultant, Vanilla PR

Fifteen years ago, sending out a press release was a labour-intensive process. Paper copies of the document (formatted to fit the client’s stationery) and a bundle of labels printed with the addresses of target journalists (sourced from a vast paper directory) were sent to the distribution house in north London. There they were photocopied and stapled, put into envelopes and posted for next-day arrival at the publication.

Other PR (public relations) activities, such as researching and responding to features and placing by-lined articles and case studies, were similarly paper and post-based.

Any coverage generated appeared in the next edition of the magazine that was often the only copy in the office (although additional copies of the cutting also arrived later in the post via a cuttings agency). Press coverage books were kept in clients’ reception areas so that visitors could read about their achievements.

Those who have only known the digital world understandably find this way of working hard to believe. Today, good PR equates to online PR. Consultants send press releases directly to the media by email as well as post them on relevant websites. This is reinforced by fast, efficient and targeted electronic distribution services that also make it easy to include images and tags. Key words can be hyperlinked to the relevant page on the client’s website and discussions generated via blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Features are researched online, as is journalist, blogger and opinion former activity so that information can be carefully targeted.

Coverage, which is tracked via magazine websites and search engines, is sent by email to everyone who has a vested interest.

In short, communication, and with it public relations, has been revolutionised.

With the luxury of hindsight, it is easy to be dismissive of ‘the olden days’. But, on closer inspection, have the fundamentals of PR really changed that much over the past 15 years? Undoubtedly there are many, many more ways of instantly reaching a target audience that now extends beyond journalists and is based in a variety of locations around the world.

However, in its simplest form, PR is still about engaging with people for any number of reasons including encouraging them to buy a product or service, support a cause or be brand loyal. And that comes down to the right message going to the right audience at the right time. Doing PR in the online age is a luxury (albeit a challenging one). But if the basics are not remembered, no amount of emailing and Tweeting is going to achieve the communication objectives.


Watch the video below featuring Adam Parker, CEO of Realwire discusses how online PR can can help you market your products and services more effectively.


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