Is Public Relations really just a profession for young people? It can sometimes feel that way to old timers like me. When I started off in this game we mainly used the print media to communicate our message to the intended audience. Now it seems that PR practitioners are increasingly working with influencers.
For those of you who might not be familiar with that term, influencers are bloggers, Instagrammers, etc who have a huge following on social media. Consumers, especially those at the younger end of the age scale, trust the opinions of these people far more than they trust traditional media outlets.
This seems to be especially the case in lifestyle areas such as fashion, travel and food. It may well be an age thing, but I do find it a bit difficult sometimes to understand why people are so ready to spend large sums of their hard-earned cash on something simply because someone wrote something nice about it online.
I was curious to learn more about this, so last week I went along to a CIPR Scotland breakfast seminar in Glasgow which looked at how PR professionals can work with influencers and what practical and ethical issues there might be.
One of the main ethical concerns to arise was that these influencers are often paid in order to promote or favourably review products and services. I was interested to hear that the Advertising Standards Authority is now so concerned about this “promoted content” that it has recently published new transparency guidelines which will hopefully make it clear to the audience when the influencer is being paid to promote a particular product.
There is no doubt that the way in which we receive news and information has changed beyond belief over the last quarter of a century. One thing which hasn’t changed is the need to measure and evaluate your PR efforts. It seems to be as big an issue with online content as it is with print media. Google Analytics are all well and good, but I still have a hankering for the old days of opening up an envelope of press cuttings and measuring the column inches.