Cloud, Agile and Customer Experience: How PR-Specialists Survive Digital Transformation

Over the past few years digital transformation has become a new reality for companies all around the world. As most of the countries, Russia does not stay aside: according to the roadmap of the national program "Digital Economy", adopted in 2018, over 1634 billion rubles ($25,4 billion) will be allocated from Russian budget by 2024 to make the national economy more digital.

As PR-specialists — in Russia or worldwide — we often use the term digital transformation when speaking on behalf of a client company to B2B or B2C audience. Sad truth is, however, that not each of us has a clear understanding of what digital transformation really means to PR as an industry, how it changes the way PR works and what should we as professionals do to keep pace with this global process.

Discussing digital transformation on corporate level often comes down to naming the freshly implemented IT solutions. Very few top managers in fact are willing to talk about digital transformation of their companies in terms of structural changes in work of whole departments. Meanwhile, McKinsey experts say that organizational changes within companies play equal, if not a bigger role in digital transformation than modern IT-solutions. McKinsey experts suggest "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">dividing these structural changes into 4 blocks:

· Customer-centric culture

· Autonomous and cross-functional teams

· Flexible IT resources

· Rapid-response management system

Let's see what each of these blocks means in general and how exactly it can influence the work of a PR specialist.

Customer-centric culture

A customer-centric approach to corporate culture "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">implies using Customer Experience as a jumping-off point for all business processes. The example of global corporations, such as Google or Yandex, which are constantly launching new services, big part of which dies without ever becoming commercially successful, shows that the ability to quickly respond to market demands is way more important for leadership nowadays than perfection of the ready-made product. In other words, you can always fix a bug in your product or service, but you will never have a second chance to offer it to your customer on time.

What does it mean for a PR-specialist?

Following the logic of a customer-centric corporate culture, a customer-centric PR strategy should be built around the process of customer-product interaction and not around the qualities of product or brand. To create this kind of strategy, a PR specialist should have a really deep understanding of its company's customers, their social and demographic characteristics, existing pains and preferred information channels. The choice of communication channels in a PR strategy should therefore be determined not by the rating of the media, but by your customers' experience with these media. We all know how tempting it sometimes can be to get your company mentioned in a large federal newspaper or TV, however, the value of such mention will be quite low if your customers use different media, say forums or Telegram-blogs, to stay informed.

According to "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Weber Shandwick experts, the possibility of customizing the news feed in social networks and messengers has led to a phenomenon of "information cocoon", when a user trusts bloggers from his feed more than traditional media. Therefore, if we are not talking about country-wide or international business, we should not ignore such information channel as "microinfluencers" — bloggers with relatively small number of followers, whose audience according to "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">a number of studies, is much more loyal and "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">deeply immersed into the topic then audience of large blogs and media channels.

Autonomous and cross-functional teams

The growing role of Customer Service and Customer Journey leads to extinction of classical "hierarchical" corporate structure, where employees are divided into vertically managed departments. It is now being replaced by a cross-functional management system where main structural units of the company are project teams, consisting of specialists with different functions, like for example, R&D, technical support, sales, marketing, PR, et c. In such a system a specialist can simultaneously take part in several project teams, performing his function in all of them.

What does it mean for a PR-specialist?

A working model where press service is a separate business unit, which interacts only with marketing department and sometimes with top management, is a thing of the past. A cross-functional management approach "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">expands the range of tasks requiring involvement of a PR specialist. Having a profound understanding of company's information field, a PR specialist can help on an early stage of product development to predict which product qualities will be most demanded by target audience, what difficulties may arise in delivering information through chosen sales channels and what messages about the product should the company deliver to its potential employees when expanding its staff. Involving a PR specialist in all these processes can help make the company image congruent and harmonious in the eyes of media, customers, business community and employees.

Flexible IT resources

The rapid development of IT and overwhelming migration "into the cloud" does not only help us generate new product categories, such as virtual home assistants and chat bots. It also contributes to the widespread " "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">mobilization" of employees. More and more companies are abandoning office, and shift to remote work, which has led to emergence of a phenomenon known as "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Digital Nomadism.

What does it mean for a PR-specialist?

Mobility, speed of feedback and staying in touch 24/7 — the qualities which are essential to a PR specialist today — will become even more crucial as more millennials come to the labor market. According to "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Deloitte forecastthe share of millennials among the employed population in the world will make 75% by 2025. Fortunately, together with increasing involvement requirements we get a lot of convenient project management tools (e.g. Trello, Mindmaps), instant messengers (Slack, Telegram) and media outsourcing services (Cision, Pressfeed), that make PR specialists' work possible at any time and from everywhere.

Another way in which technology helps PR specialists to be more flexible is the wider choice of information delivery formats. Thanks to new technologies, today we can replace traditional press conferences with virtual ones, like "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Samsung, create press kits that will always be available to journalists online, like "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Burning Man, issue press releases in video or audio format, like "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Mastercard, and conclude contracts for promoting your brand with virtual influencers, like "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Adidas.

Rapid-response management system

Agile is gaining popularity not only as a project management system, but also as an approach that makes communication inside the team more efficient. Agile approach is based on the principle of constant involvement of all team members and allowing any employee make adjustments into the work plan at any stage of the project. With such management, horizontal communications between employees begin to play "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">a much bigger role than vertical communication between the boss and the employee, and communication within the team looks more like a social network, where everyone is united around the project on equal basis.

What does it mean for a PR-specialist?

Along with Agile Project Management, "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">Agile PR approach has emerged. Its goal is to make PR-tools more flexible. While classical PR implies creation of a long-term strategy, from six months to a year, with a detailed plan of newsbreaks and events, Agile PR considers creating a short-term, say one-month, PR-strategy with regular results assessment "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);">more effective in terms of adaptation to changing information environment.

Agile approach in management can also be applied to any PR-projects. For example, in classic PR, such task as creating an event handbook or a brochure would mean that a manager should first calculate the budget, develop a content plan, and then step-by-step hire a copywriter, a translator, an editor, a designer and a publisher, managing each contractor's work individually. In Agile PR the work on this project would begin with creation of a project team consisting of all necessary specialists at once and joint brainstorming, during which a complex vision of the finished product would be developed. Then, the product concept, including budget, deadlines, content, style, design et c, would be presented to the customer. Deadlines would be set for the project team to discuss intermediate results with the customer and make necessary amendments during the work process. Agile approach this way would allow a PR specialist not only save time due to parallel implementation of several tasks, but also to avoid the situation when the customer first sees the product at the final stage and is radically dissatisfied with the results.

Thus, digital transformation in PR requires a new approach to communications, a change in style of project work and use of new promotion formats that appear thanks to technology development. The one who begins to apply these requirements to work today, is going to be on top in this new digital era.

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