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The Future of PR: what it will take to thrive in the PR industry in 2020 and beyond

By Clare Basire, Business Director, Thrive Sydney

With one decade about to end and a new one on our doorstep, Thrive recently hosted a panel discussion and networking event for young PR professionals to look at what the future of PR looks like.

MC’d by Channel 9’s Tim Davies (despite him dislocating his shoulder a few days before - what a trooper!), we brought together a panel of media and comms experts to share their experience, advice and predictions, hosted at our thrive360 space in Alexandria, Sydney.

I was lucky enough to sit on the panel alongside Claire Kimball, founder & CEO, The Squiz; Stewart Russell, Head of Communications ANZ, Twitter; and Dan Jordan, Head of Public Relations ANZ, Didi. For those who couldn’t make it along, here are some of the key insights:

“Find your obsession, make it your profession, and you’ll never work a day in your life”

Each panellist had one thing in common - a true passion for what we do each day. For me, I thrive (pardon the pun) on the hustle of working within a busy PR agency, collaborating with countless networks of media and clients from all different sectors. That’s why I’m an agency girl through and through. Nothing beats the excitement of generating results for clients and helping shape the success of their business. Personally, I’ve always loved the variety of agency life and that passion is what continues to drive me today.

Didi’s Dan Jordan found his calling in life through his passion for cars and motorsports, which has culminated in his recent appointment to lead PR for rideshare service Didi’s entry into the ANZ market. One of the great things about a career in PR is that it can lead you to incorporate your hobbies outside of work into your day job.

“What's the most important thing you need to have for a career in comms? Adaptability”

Stewart Russell began his career as an impressionable intern for Twitter in the UK six years ago, and has steadily risen through the ranks to now lead the Twitter’s comms team across Australia and New Zealand. Stewart believes the most important attribute for any upcoming PR professional is the ability to adapt to any project, any brand and know how to relate to the campaign you’re working on. And in order to relate, you need to believe in the story you’re telling consumers.

“It's all about developing those relationships with reporters… form those relationships and work towards a common goal”

Claire Kimball explained how The Squiz don’t see themselves as a ‘media company’ but as a group of passionate people who help others stay on top of the news. The relationship her team has with PR people is shaped by this ethos.

Stewart highlighted the stigma that exists in the industry around ‘PRs vs Journalists’, when in fact both parties have a common goal; to deliver exceptional content to the right audience. For PR pros to achieve dream coverage for their clients, there is nothing more important than forming those relationships with journalists, and being able to workshop angles and ideas to achieve the best outcome for both sides.

Didi’s Dan also had some valuable insights around engaging with journalists. Upcoming PR professionals must be aware of the media landscape they’re working within and always do their research - with many journos active across multiple channels, make sure you know who is doing what.

This also means a knowledge of local media, which can be neglected at times, however, brands must be able to reach and connect with people located outside of major cities and suburbs.

“A phone call to a client goes a long way”

Speaking from a client/brand perspective, Claire from The Squiz believes that PR professionals need to ensure they build authentic relationships with their clients. Simple things like a phone call regularly to offer support when a client may feel overwhelmed goes a long way. It’s also important for agencies to be creative, inventive and put forward thought leadership pieces for their clients, to continue to think outside the square.

“Get out of your comfort zone”

A huge piece of advice Dan offered to those just starting out in PR, is to freelance anywhere you can and intern everywhere. This industry is all about networking and making long-standing connections - you never know when an opportunity may arise!

Claire from The Squiz agreed, urging attendees to get out of their bubble and explore new and different avenues of the media than those they personally gravitate to.

“Back yourself, believe in the decisions you are making - and let your personality shine through”

The biggest challenge that I personally see for the PR industry is that consumers are growing tired of big brands shouting at them, and are looking for authenticity and genuinity. PR practitioners will need to develop skills to resonate with people on a deeper level that will shine through innovative brand campaigns.

This importance of authenticity is just as important personally for those working in PR as it is for their clients. Always be brave, back yourself, come as you are and over-prepare for every situation.

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