Lifestyle Business

Winning in PR in the digital economy

COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio - The Philippine Star
Winning in PR in the digital economy
Fostering PR in ASEAN: (from left) Dato Haji Ibrahim Abdul Rahman, Malaysia; Bao Nguyen Quoc, Vietnam; Jennifer Muir, Australia; Prita Kemal Gani, founder of LSPR and president of APRN, Indonesia; Bong Osorio, Philippines; and Nutthabon Pornattacharoen, Thailand

The ASEAN PR Network recently staged a one-day summit on “PR and the Digital Economy” coinciding with the inauguration of the London School of PR, Bali, Indonesia campus. I represented the Philippines at the summit and delivered a talk on “PR Strategies and Tactics in the Digital Economy.” Here are the highlights of my talk:

The digital economy has given and continues to give birth to new business models. It impacts in an overwhelming way on business and society.  Speed is the critical issue.  And with speed comes change, and change is harder to deal with when it is happening faster and faster.

It used to take a Fortune 500 company an average of 20 years to reach a billion-dollar valuation.  Today’s digital start-ups — if they succeed — get there in four years.  Wealth and value creation has increased in speed five-fold. 

Digital platforms include artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and widespread cloud platforms, complex walled gardens of integrated applications and the growth of the “internet of things.” 

In 2015, three billion people were connected. By 2020 it is projected that 50 billion people and things will be connected. And by 2030 it could be one trillion things and people connected. 

For businesses, this means that they need a digital solution to thrive and succeed. Change in culture is as vital as change in technology, data is the new currency of business, and hyper-connectivity requires the development of systems and platforms. Indeed, the future belongs to the fast; legacy and lethargy are the enemies of speed and if you are not going fast enough someone else is, and you can be run over.

Social, mobile and e-commerce are now approaching critical mass. Data from multiple sources become connected, the technology effect multiplies the benefit as you approach the ability to target, follow and engage with identified but unnamed individuals. 

Changes in trust are redefining the PR business. The meaning of trust has also evolved over the years. Trust in the earlier days was defined by the church and state, and was driven by guidelines.  In later days, trust was driven by brands and advertising, as people chose to believe or not the brand promise. Trust was based on belief.  Today, trust is driven by collective experience.  People trust people like them. 

PR communicators in the digital economy must rapidly build their ability to deliver brand experiences for customers.  They need to use technology twofold: to bring inspiration and transaction ever closer together, and to use technology to create new products and transform business processes. As experience replaces belief in the consumer conscience, creating commerce through experiences will be even more important. 

PR Agility

To perform smarter PR communications today, you must be agile and on the ball with a world on fast forward. Being agile is being nimble or being graceful.  In an organizational context, agility means creating value and continuously and consistently charming the customer while promoting and responding to changes in the environment. The challenge is not only to deliver value early but also, for the most part, to make people happy.

PR messages must be expertly crafted to fly in a frenzied, always-on-the-go world.  To do so requires a mastery of your brand narrative, extreme knowledge of how to create a compelling story, and how you network your story.

Influencer PR

Influencer PR is what PR professionals need to do in the digital economy. It is all about building relationships. You deal with influencers, advocates and employee advocates. Building long-lasting relationships with consumers can increase passionate brand supporters, turning down the noise of negativity. You can strengthen relationships by regularly engaging your community, which can solidify your presence within. You must create unique content to educate the uninformed, bring them to your community, and support your most active fans, who will create advocacy for your brand.


Influencers are people of notable status and focus within their community. They create engaging content that has relevance, reach and resonance valuable to a brand or program. Advocates are individuals and groups who support a brand or product and exercise their right to be heard, particularly in situations where opinions are appropriate.  They encourage more dialogue and ultimately more advocacy for the brand. Employee advocates are internal publics who are empowered to share their support for a company’s brand, product or services on their professional social channels. They inform, educate and engage with other employees or like-minded professionals. 

Influencers come in many forms. They can be content-specific, super PR platform-specific, themed opinions, artistic and creative approach, with many followers on multiple platforms; or they could be a maven or thought-leader focused on one platform.


Advocates are brand ambassadors, brand activists, marketing partners, and reputation managers. They help with word of mouth, which influences people’s purchase decisions 74 percent of the time. In choosing advocates, consider these: They work with or are interested in working with the brand, have not worked with a competitor in the past, understand the role the brand plays in the consumer’s life and the role the consumer plays for your brand, and identify the actions the brand must take to generate more advocates and create momentum.

Employee advocates

Research reveals that brand messages travel five times more when shared by employees as compared to when they are shared by a company’s official communication channels. Employees who work for the brand can become the best advocates for the brand, as they are part of the company DNA.

Good employee advocates are extremely knowledgeable regarding the topic, tend to have the most passion and are inexpensive. They should be used as knowledge-holders. Talking about the brand is great, but its messages are far more credible when they are resonated by others, and who better to talk about the brand than its employees? People are more influenced by people like themselves. It has been proven that brand messages sent via employees’ social accounts are more influential, and that a well-implemented employee advocacy system generates more brand buzz on social media.

Advocates are typically not incentivized for their social posts because they are already loyal fans of the brand and are happy to speak highly on behalf of it without payment. Some advocate programs, though incorporate incentives such as product giveaways, public visibility, or surprise and delights.

The digital economy is having a big impact on society and is set to transform the future. But the influence of the digital economy is not all positive.  It has also brought a more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world where too often business benefit is at a cost to the wider society, a world where we see a collapse of trust, as well as an overestimation of short-term impacts over long-term implications.

If the digital economy can transform the way you work and live together in society, how do you make sure that it drives meaningful change? PR professionals must continue to be a social communicator: Put your heart in your work, be a compelling storyteller, believe in yourself and your team, apply ethics and governance principles, remember that honesty fosters trust and never stop learning.

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