1990’s Flashback: Five Ways the PR Industry Has Radically Changed

By April Mason


The world of public relations is always evolving—and to be successful, a PR professional must change with it. From faxes, phone calls and newspaper clippings to blogs, Tweets and Facebook Live press events, I’ve seen the industry transform since I started my first NYC agency job (gulp) nearly two decades ago.  

Our mission remains the same: we are shining a light on business and community leaders making a difference in the world. And the good news is, we now have many more ways to communicate directly to a client’s target audience.

Here is a quick look at five ways the PR business has changed most over the last two decades:

  1. Content creation is king: PR pros have traditionally pitched journalists, arranged interviews and then hoped (and prayed!) the resulting story would be positive. Though we still work with reporters every day, about half our time is now spent creating content that goes directly to target audiences via social media. 

  2. Social media trumps the phone: Instead of calling journalists (many who aren’t in offices anymore anyway), we write content that can be immediately posted and shared. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and client blog posts have become key vehicles to getting our news out.

  3. Eye candy works wonders: Videos and photography have become more important than ever (even for business and tech stories), as journalists don’t always have the budget to shoot their own but love the extra traffic / eyeballs that a slideshow or video attracts.

  4. Straight news beats promotional writing: Online outlets are looking for content that people will want to read, and often don’t have time (or staff) to do their own original reporting. Our pitches and news articles are now written in a “straight news” style (think fewer fluffy adjectives) so that they can be picked up verbatim if needed. 

  5. Tracking our results has never been easier! Instead of calculating the advertising value of a news article or adding up circulation numbers (never an exact 1:1), we can immediately see the increase in website traffic when a favorable news article appears. And we can instantly view the number of clicks, likes and shares of content we post on social media channels to measure engagement. 

So, what’s next? 

As the media industry continues to shrink, we will continue to see PR professionals working less with staff reporters and more with social media influencers and industry experts. And as we move towards digital platforms almost exclusively in the future, there will be seemingly endless opportunities to micro-target audiences. 

Did I miss anything? What do you see as the future of #PR? Let me know in the comments below.

April Mason has spent the last two decades developing public relations campaigns for clients in the economic development, real estate and hospitality industries. Her Montclair, NJ-based agency, Violet PR, focuses on generating favorable media exposure for communities and companies reinventing urban areas, building sustainable projects and growing businesses. 

Follow April here on Linkedin or contact her directly at April@violetpr.com.  

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