PR has the opportunity to move aggressively into paid content, an arena long dominated by advertising but that will require investment and training. The bigger challenge for the profession and for society is what happens when consumers no longer know the source or the nature of the information they receive, and how that impacts the credibility of that information.And that's both a plus and a minus for marketing in general and society at large.
The three key developments fueling this trend are (1) social listening, (2) digital storytelling, and (3) real-time marketing.
As a top official of ANA states: "Digital has put PR front and center, as it allows immediate outbound communication and inbound feedback."
PR's traditional function has been to "listen" to the interests and concerns of an organization's publics (consumers, community members, and other stakeholders) and allow for response through programs or other means. PR also explains the organization's position to the publics and helps protect reputation, both reactively and proactively. So in a real sense, PR has been an integral element in the marketing plan from the beginning.
With the rise of product placement and influencer marketing, among other techniques, consumers are increasingly surrounded by content that they can't as easily evaluate in terms of source (paid? spontaneous? stunt?). This is where transparency becomes critical.