Slow PR: Communications Strategies for a Fast World

The technology-driven shift to a digital communications world is synonymous with speed, 24-hour news cycles, the rise of social media, citizen journalism and, let’s face it, digital noise…  

When it comes to public relations in its broadest sense we need to be careful not to be seduced by technology. We need to remain focused on communications fundamentals. 

Here are four things to think about.


In a Fast World, Think Slow

When the world is changing rapidly, the temptation is to run as fast as the conveyor belt of new technologies are taking you. If an agile, iterative approach to communications and marketing is the result, this is not a bad thing in itself. 

The problem is, when you’re running fast it’s easy to stop seeing the trees from the forest. The temptation is to take shortcuts, send mass email distributions to journalists without researching their interests, buy social media users or generate content click bait.         

We need to stop every now and again to take stock of what we are doing to ensure that we have not lost sight of what’s important: What audiences want and how they want to be engaged. 


In a Complex World, Think Simple

We live in a complex world. Technology is both part of the solution and the problem. Social media is a case in point. While social media enables us to potentially reach three billion people, getting people to engage with content is a growing challenge.  

The solution is to add simplicity into the mix. The greater the clarity of purpose, message, approach, and knowledge of your audience, the better the chance of “connecting” with those that matter. 


In an Anonymous World, Think Personal

Research shows that, on average, we have around a dozen close friends and around 150 relationships in our lives. LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms expand networks to thousands or even millions of people, each of whom has limited bandwidth and time to engage with others – unless there’s a good reason to do so.  

You don’t build relationships by communicating en masse. Finding ways to engage with individuals is key. Working with reporters, influencers, investing in building relationships and “marketing for an audience of one” takes time and effort. It’s when we have conversations – because we’re not just talking, we’re also listening – that magic happens.                     


In a Noisy World, Think Quiet

In a noisy world, most people shout to get heard. Today’s shouting includes unrelenting emails and social media posts, as well as mass-produced content. As a fellow entrepreneur shared with me some time ago, “Speak quietly and people are more likely to listen.”

When you turn down the volume and have something to say that helps others achieve their goals, engagement follows. This is easier to say than to do. We tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to our companies, products or services. This limits our ability to clearly see, or change, communications to ensure what we do resonates. And, ultimately, it is what we “do” that speaks louder than words.               


Although there are lessons for communicators in each of these ideas, turning them into action isn’t simple. Our need to make money, build audiences, and generate the most media or social media attention incentivizes us to seek quick results rather than long-term relationships, shout when we should be quiet, and take short-cuts to attract eyeballs rather than generate the most value.  

We need to stay focused on the basics and add a little “slow” to PR, or any marketing discipline, if we are to build long-term sustainable businesses in a world where technology-driven communications are increasingly being decoded.

We need to resist the urge to “chase the tail” of technology and avoid the “dead cat bounce” of distractions on the path to building PR and communications programs that create value and engagement. 

A slow approach doesn’t mean that we should not be nimble, agile, or iterative. It means we need to be considered and audience-centric.   


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size. The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.

Read other articles on communications strategies on our Insights Blog: "Why Every Organization Needs Key Messages ― 3 Elements of Effective Key Messages", "Artificial Intelligence & Personalization in Marketing Communications (Video)", "Getting to The Essence of a Crisis: Crisis Communications Rules & Resources", and more.

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