We are living in changing times, but change can present immense opportunities. As we know, trust in media is at an all-time low. In addition, power continues to shift away from media to media consumers and brands.
PR students about to enter the workforce need to understand that they can take advantage of paradigm shifts to shape their careers in innovative ways, Amanda Sapp, Edelman’s VP of planning, told students during a speech at the Public Relations Student Society of America 2017 Regional Conference at San Diego State University earlier this year. It’s imperative, Sapp said, to accept the shifting media paradigm and adapt to it, while focusing on the foundation of all relationships—trust.
Below are five strategies she believes can foster success in changing times:
1. Avoid getting comfortable with the old models. Much of what students learn about PR and communications in college may be outdated by the time they get their first PR job. Traditional models and institutions are suffering from a lack of public trust, Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer shows. One of the worst things a company can do is rely on outdated modes of engagement. The Trust Barometer advises to rebuild trust and restore faith, institutions and brands "must step outside of their traditional roles and work toward a new, more integrated model that puts people’s needs, including their fears, at the center of everything [brands] do.” Such flexibility applies to PR pros, too: Being aware of your target audience’s mindset will allow you to better adapt to changing conditions.
2. Tell stories in transparent and authentic ways. If your audience questions your authenticity, your messages will mean little or nothing. As we know, authentic storytelling is crucial to building relationships with audiences. The Trust Barometer indicates that a person’s peers have become one of the most trusted sources of information. This makes grassroots efforts particularly important.
3. Know your purpose. Being intimately familiar with your organization’s purpose is crucial to your success and that of your company. This is so in stable times; it’s doubly when things are changing. Know your company’s goals and objectives. Analyze the goals you seek as your company’s PR professional. Being confident and consistent in understanding these issues will guide you not only in times of change, but also throughout your growth as a PR practitioner.
4. Talk with, not at. Thanks to the digital age and social media, PR and corporate communications are no longer one-way streets, with brands communicating to consumers. Today the best brands are in dialogues with consumers, who want to know they’re being heard. Encourage organic discussion at all levels of your company. In addition, businesses have the opportunity to bypass the media in some cases and create their own coverage. As a young communicator, make it a priority to engage effectively with audiences. This will lead to greater success throughout your PR career.
5. Passion counts. Sapp asked the students to answer the question: What makes you feel alive? Hopefully part of the answer includes your job in PR. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, chances are your audience won’t either. Passion and caring are crucial to not only establish credibility, but also to build quality relationships with audiences.
Emphasizing the importance of transparency and integrity, Sapp quotes Aristotle, “Be competent, be sincere and be consistent.”
Baylee Akins is a senior at San Diego State University