By Dan Sweet, RP3 Agency

The PR Summit DC was held on June 2, bringing PR professionals from around the DC area together to discuss the latest best practices for the industry. I was fortunate enough to attend this year and also honored to moderate the panel focused on the future of virtual reality in PR.

I attended a number of sessions throughout the day and here are five key takeaways from this year’s conference:

Earned Media is More Competitive than Ever

While there are more media platforms than ever (dedicated to increasingly segmented audiences), the competition to get the attention of reporters has never been fiercer and the standard “press release followed by a pitch call” is no longer enough.

PR professionals need to do their homework and put in the effort to learn about the reporters and publications they pitch.

The biggest complaint journalists in attendance had is the lack of understanding some PR folks have of what they cover and what they are interested in covering. True media relations is about actually developing relationships. Knowing what a reporter needs and proving you can be a reliable source for information and perspective will make it much more likely they will listen when you call with your pitch.

“Nimble is the New Normal”

Martha Boudreau, Executive Vice President & Chief Communications and Marketing Officer for AARP, gave an excellent keynote address where she presented a few startling statistics about the future of the workforce: The fastest growing population in the U.S. is 85 and older; the second fastest is 100 plus. In short, we are likely going to be working a lot longer, and some of us in jobs that don’t even exist yet. In fact, 35 percent of students currently in elementary school will be working in jobs that have yet to be invented.

The key takeaway: We must be nimble in our thinking toward keeping ourselves viable in an ever-evolving job market. As PR professionals, we need to continue to grow professionally no matter how far along we are in our careers. We must continue to educate ourselves and push beyond our comfort zones or we may find one day our profession has passed us by.

Social Media is a Foundation, Not an Extension

Just about every PR plan these days has a section, or a couple of slides, dedicated to “Social Media” that is usually in some way supporting the overall earned media strategy. If this is the way you are thinking, you are behind.

Social media is now part of the foundation of any successful PR campaign. Can you name any influential publication, reporter or editor that does not have a least some social/digital presence? How about the key audiences you are trying to reach?

Social/digital media needs to be woven into every facet of your earned, owned, paid and shared campaigns and has to be at the center of your strategic approach. If you do not have a social/digital presence, you have no presence at all.

Content is King

I know, this one sounds pretty obvious. Yet it is interesting to hear several panelists acknowledge that while we spend so much time and effort focusing on the latest platforms and technologies, we sometimes don’t focus enough on the quality of the content. We spend so much time trying to get our audiences’ attention, we don’t spend enough time thinking about how to keep it. In short, too much sizzle, not enough steak.

Netflix recently reported that the average person spends just three seconds on a title before they decide. You have literally seconds to make a compelling case with your content or your audience is moving on, so it better be as strong as possible.

Nowadays, content is more important than ever. We are constantly being bombarded with all sorts of information—current events, entertainment options, advertising, photos of what our friends are having for dinner, etc. Our audiences always have another option for their attention and unless you have compelling content, you’ll lose them…quickly.

Virtual Reality is Not a Fad

Virtual reality (VR) is a bit of a paradox—a technology that has been around since 1991, yet in many ways is still in its infancy. It is also difficult to predict. For every successful VR PR campaign (Excedrin’s Migraine Experience) there is one that falls short (Alibaba’s virtual mall).

But those who dismiss VR as a fad just for video game players may be in for a surprise.

There were 22.5 million mobile VR users worldwide in 2016, up from nearly 6.5 million the previous year. By 2020 it is projected that more than 154 million people will use VR at least once with several million reporting they will likely be daily users.

Virtual reality continues to have a number of barriers such as cost (both to produce and experience, although costs for both are decreasing) and ethical issues (can companies track and capture what I am physically looking at in real time?), but as technology continues to improve, using VR will one day be as likely as using a smartphone.

The PR profession would be wise to start developing strategies now for incorporating VR into future campaigns.

(RP3 Agency is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.)

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