Convergence Culture: Putting Public Relations at the Digital Forefront

As society moves forward, more and more advances in all aspects of our world continue to develop. Whether this is a cure to a chronic illness, housing for the homeless or simply achieving equal pay rates between genders, it is undeniable that our world is constantly evolving. Irrefutably, one of the most notable evolutions of the modern era is the soaring importance and usage of technology. For example, in 2015 alone nearly half of the global population was using the Internet. Studies conducted by The International Telecommunication Union, a governing body under the United Nations, indicated that 3.2 billion individuals, of the current 7.2 billion-world population, would be online (BBC, 2015). These statistics alone highlight the significant role held by technology in today’s contemporary society, which is a statement further supported by Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide,

“We are entering an era where media will be everywhere, and we will use all kinds of media in relation to one another in our near future” (Jenkins, 2001).

This advancement has not only impacted individual lives, but also has significantly changed the way that the corporate world runs – specifically, within the field of public relations. In simple terms, public relations can be defined as the link found between a company and their target audiences. The profession relies predominantly upon information and feedback from surrounding publics, which is collated and used effectively to develop more thorough campaigns in order to drive clientele satisfaction (Johnson, 2014).

The profession used to rely upon more traditional media outlets, such as press releases, newsletters and heavy attendance at public events. However, due to the ever-growing prominence of technology within society, pubic relations has been able to successfully converge their workings over into the new digital realm. This transition over to a more technology driven career can be regarded as a Convergence Culture, according to Henry Jenkins. Convergence culture can be defined as ‘the flow of content across a variety of platforms, beholding the cooperation of multiple media industries and migratory behaviour of media audiences” (Jenkins, 2006). The concept of Convergence Culture is further illustrated throughout the following video exert:

When merging these two individual concepts as one, a new public relations approach is formed, regarded as digital public relations. Digital PR is used to combine the traditional approaches of the professions with content marketing, social media and search engines (Morgan, 2013). The approach allows for news to be spread at a much more accelerated rate, and reach specific target audiences faster than ever before. In modern society, the process is also seen as the most capable in producing, discussing and revealing campaigns across all mediums, while reaching audiences from the public relations community to consumers at the same time.

Before digital public relations became a cemented approach, traditional publicists faced constant difficulties in regards to campaigns. Due to only being equipped with mass media outlets such as press, radio and television, a constant divide was evident between the publicist and consumer market (Martinez, 2015). This divide was deemed crucial due to these outlets not holding the capability of reaching all audiences. Due to this, publicists heavily relied upon specific individuals in order to convey key messages of said campaign. However, the implementation of digital public relations, in association with the convergence of online media platforms, allow for a much more direct link between not only publicists and clients, but also the entirety of the consumer market. Whether this be through social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or whether it be through News Apps, publicists are now able to communicate with varying media sources at a much easier degree.

The following video featuring author of Public Relations in the Digital Age, Tom Kelleher, discusses the future of the public relations sector with the introduction of digital public relations.

Due to digital public relations becoming a more recognised industry and the preferred method of producing notable campaigns, publicists are now required to build upon skills that they thought had become obsolete due to the ongoing media convergence (Flew, 2014). Public relations professionals must no be able to wield multi-disciplinary skill sets at all times, weaving together traditional public relations with social media, interactive, and even advertising. This being so further means that these professionals much behold a greater understanding of business, leadership and company operations overall, across multiple audiences, markets and the global economy (Horn, 2012). From an alternative perspective, this essentially means that practitioners in this field must also converge professions to cater to the ongoing convergence of media. Whether it be adopting marketing skills to promote more effectively, or gaining some journalistic knowledge to create more targeted, well written campaigns in the modern age.

With the constant introduction of new technology’s within our world, public relations is securing a stand at the forefront of the digital age. In doing this, the profession is able to create more successful campaigns and final products then ever before. It is undeniable in stating that public relations is becoming extremely digitalised, due to the implementation of converged media into the practice. Moving away from traditional platforms to more modern advances, it is evident that public relations is now an industry to be reckoned with.

References:

BBC. (2015). Internet Used By 3.2 Billion People in 2015. Retrieved 25 September, 2016, from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32884867

Flew, T. (2011). New Media: An Introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Horn, S. (2012). Public Relations Goes Digital. Retrieved 28 September, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/06/27/public-relations-goes-digital/#7bd104661987

Jenkins, H. (2006). Welcome To ConvergenceCulture. Retrieved 25 September, 2016, from http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_covergence_culture.html

Johnson, J. & Sheehan, M. (2014). Public Relations: Theory and Practice, 4th Ed. New South Wales: Allen & Unwin

Martinez, I. (2015). 7 Differences Between PR Online and Traditional Public Relations. Retrieved 27 September, 2016, from https://www.launchmetrics.com/resources/blog/differences-digital-and-traditional-pr

Morgan, C. (2013). What is Digital PR? Retrieved27 September, 2016, from http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/what-digital-pr

Oxford Academic. (2015). Tom Kelleher Discusses The Future of Public Relations [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbOYDvG3MmI

Samoylenko, S. (2015). Convergence Culture [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYacwtKS_EQ

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