#FuturePRoof: A guide for managers of agencies and communications teams

FuturePRoof book cover

The challenge of the public relations industry is to remain accessible to future generations whilst striving towards professionalism. It’s this drive for constant improvement and reinvention that has brought 40+ practitioners together to complete 39 essays, forming the second edition of #FuturePRoof.

The second edition builds on the success of the first #FuturePRoof book, launched in October 2015, which secured over 2,500 sales and downloads. The book continues the discussion around key opportunities facing public relations, from convergence and skillset to Boardroom recognition and the pace of change. Its aim is to assert public relations as a management discipline and demonstrate its value to organisational success.

The second edition of #FuturePRoof has launched at a poignant time for me as I reflect on how my own public relations career has progressed. As a digital specialist, the only form of media relations I regularly undertake is blogger relations; most of the time I help organisations become their own newspapers.

I would be called in to assist with online reputation management, digital monitoring, and programme strategies. At times I question whether the work of the PRCA or CIPR adequately represent my daily workload or training requirements, especially as flagship events such as BrightonSEO talk more directly to my skillset.

With this in mind, I’ve been reading #FuturePRoof trying to understand its target audience. At first I struggled. All of us who are involved in the online public relations community are used to calls to professionalism, ethical practices, and equality. So whilst I agreed with chapters than ran this route, it’s the same beating drum. Perhaps this will raise awareness amongst senior practitioners in the industry to change their practices, but I think this is the point; words help bring topics to light but only we can work for change.

The 39 essays that form #FuturePRoof are wide ranging. Topics include audience insight, employee advocacy, influencer relations, tools and technology, agile strategy and business models. For this reason, the book won’t just appeal to one audience, but a range of different people who form the public relations industry.

One of the most memorable chapters for me is by Sarah Stimson, Programme Director at the Taylor Bennett Foundation, on the importance of hiring smart people who have diverse socio-economic backgrounds. It doesn’t speak directly to my role, except if I’m involved in a hiring decision, but highly relevant to HR teams.

The main message weaved throughout the book is clear: Corporate investment in people and technology and an individual focus on continuous professional development (CPD) will drive the public relations industry forward.

Agency owner and CIPR President-Elect candidate Sarah Hall is #FuturePRoof’s founder and editor.

She said:

“The success of #FuturePRoof shows that public relations practitioners are aware of the direction of travel and are no longer prepared for other disciplines to eat their lunch. The public relations fight back starts here and now.

“Demand shows professionals want to close their competency gaps in order to provide strategic advice at management level.

“What’s more, the public relations industry is waking up to the fact that if we are truly guiding organisational strategy, it is common sense that other disciplines answer to us within the corporate hierarchy. I expect this narrative to get louder and louder.”

#FuturePRoof: Edition Two is dedicated to Dr Jon White, a guiding force and inspiration for the project. His book How to Understand and Manage Public Relations celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

#FuturePRoof is available in hard copy via www.futureproofingcomms.co.uk and on Kindle via http://tinyurl.com/j8ocm4z.

Facebook’s stand against ad blocking

hands-woman-laptop-notebook

Facebook really doesn’t want you to block ads. Who can blame them? Generally social media sites are struggling to monetise the huge amounts of web traffic visiting; if a significant proportion of people blocked advertising this could eventually make social media businesses unsustainable. Given the risk ad blocking poses to the advertising industry, Facebook had to make a stand.

We’re all waiting for Twitter to be taken over, Yahoo (despite promising) has ruined Tumblr, and everyone is still scratching their heads about Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion as their valuation doesn’t match reality.

Despite the popularity of social media and increased internet usage, finding a successful online business model seems near impossible. The rumours say that The Guardian is losing £1 million a week and only has 7 years of life left at this rate, City AM is trying another daring business model (best of luck to them), and Buzzfeed is proving profitable but needs to navigate the fact 70% of their readers digest content from third-party sites, such as social networks.

A broad view of online profitability tells us that quickly adapting to market needs and positioning your business as a facilitator tends to reap dividends. We can see how Uber achieved this by making the private taxi business more convenient by mobile app bookings and coordinating via GPS. The music industry was slow to respond; illegally sharing files through LimeWire was once the mainstream method of gaining access to digital music online. Eventually legal methods of buying music online became available, such as the launch of the iTunes store in 2003.

In my opinion, the most successful industry that has constantly adapted to the changing media landscape is gaming. The UK is currently Europe’s second largest video game market after Germany, and estimated the 6th largest globally; worth nearly £4.2bn in consumer spend in 2015. It is the only industry that has quickly adapted to different form factors such as desktop PCs, tablets, smartphones, smart watches, and smart TVs. Games consoles have become home entertainment systems, and game copyright settings have successfully locked most people into purchasing a copy each time.

So, why am I taking you on this journey of online monetisation?

Going back to the start of this post, Facebook’s stand against ad blocking; they believe online advertisements can truly be useful. Those advertisements can alert you to when a favourite band is playing nearby or to a product/service you may genuinely find useful.

What they don’t say is that the ads you don’t deem useful are still using up your mobile contract’s data allowance. Or the disruption ads have made to Facebook’s newsfeed meaning content from your friends has been given a lesser priority compared to that ad looking for sperm donors or telling you to lose weight.

Facebook have weighed in on the online advertising debate to protect their $1 billion per quarter in advertising revenue. The question is how are we going to respond as social media users? Are we willing to have companies target us with their advertising, generalising aspects of our lives and trying to find improvements?

Facebook wants you to keep your ad blocker switched off and convince you to tell the network what sort of advertisements you would prefer to see. A nice idea, but why do I want to spend my time giving Facebook a detailed picture of my life just so they can push more advertising to me?

The debate I’ve touched upon here will continue to rage, especially as the number of bot traffic online continues to rise, questioning if ad interactions are made by humans at all. Just as the PR industry has faced its struggles and criticisms over the last decade due to digital developments, the advertising industry will now need to tackle some of its upcoming challenges.

Anyway… some thoughts from me as this blog has been neglected for the past month!

How can companies manage their reputations online? [EVENT]

Social media email banner

How can regulated companies use social media for business results?

How can you convince C-Suite that managing and measuring reputation should be a priority?

How can data be used to better manage online reputation?

Please join us for an afternoon debate at Lansons about reputation management as an independent event for Social Media Week London, on Thursday 15 September, from 3.30pm to 5.00pm.

Our expert panel will be discussing how companies can manage their reputations in the digital age. Our influential panel has been specifically selected to represent a range of opinions, based on knowledge and practical experience.

The debate will feature an extensive Q&A section, with opportunities to quiz the panel and provide comment.

To register for a place at this event, please email[email protected] with your full details. Please note that we will confirm your place via email. We’re an independent Social Media Week London event, so you’ll need to book a place in advance and won’t be able to gain entry using your official SMW pass.

Speaking on the panel will be:

Francesco D’Orazio, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product and Research at Pulsar

Francesco is Vice President of Product at social analytics firm Pulsar, Chief Innovation Officer at innovation consultancy FACE and Co-Founder at the Visual Social Media Lab. He designs systems and research frameworks that help analyse social data and extract insights from social data using computational social science and data visualisation. He is a regular speaker at research, innovation and technology conferences such as Big Data Week, Social Media Week, Social Data Week, Strata, WARC, MRS, Esomar, Virtual Worlds Forum, World Business Forum. 

Magnus Boyd, Partner at Schillings

Magnus protects individual and corporate reputations by helping clients to manage unwanted media attention. He is frequently called upon before stories are published or broadcast to prevent inaccuracy and stop businesses and prominent individuals from being defamed or private information being published. Magnus also advises on information security and manages the risk to reputation that arises in the event of data loss. He is ranked as a leader in his field in Chambers & Partners and the Spear’s 500 Index. 

Ed Coke, Director of Consulting Services at Reputation Institute

Ed leads the advisory team at Reputation Institute, a research-based consultancy that measures the reputations of the largest and most visible companies around the world. He provides senior communications and marketing executives at global companies the single-best way to measure, communicate and manage reputation performance. With this insight, companies can protect their reputations, analyse risks and drive competitive advantage.

Rebecca Mayo, Joint Managing Director at Lansons

Over the last decade Rebecca has been responsible for many sector-leading and award-winning campaigns, including: the launch of Metro Bank, Britain’s first new high street bank in over 100 years; the five year market-leading thought leadership programme for life and pensions giant Scottish Widows;  the re-positioning and re-launching of Asda Money; the launch and decade long consumer champion programme for MoneySuperMarket; the integrated PR and PA campaign for the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion; and the decade long corporate and retail programme for Invesco Perpetual, including the recent departure of its star fund manager Neil Woodford. Rebecca has significant experience managing corporate issues ranging from FSA fines, non-compliant marketing communications, mis-selling, mergers and acquisitions, exiting markets, complex pricing strategies, and difficult underwriting decisions.

City AM turns commercial news model upside down

Broadsheet newspaper

Was there ever a divide between editorial and commercial content? That’s the thought that came into my head as I read earlier this week that City AM is “turning the commercial model [of news] upside down on its head”,

The more sceptical of the approach, such as The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade, have reiterated the loss-making nature of the paper, suggesting a radical change was necessary to fix the broken business model. This seems pretty harsh as the entire media industry has struggled to make their business models profitable, particularly The Guardian that has the third highest global readership in English but is still facing financial crisis.

City AM’s approach of allowing certain organisations (for a price) direct access to their publishing platform, judging the value of their content by readership figures, surely makes sense? If a columnist at a newspaper can’t win over any readers then they’re out of a job. As Yardley has mentioned, organisations have access to subject-matter experts; possessing a body of knowledge much higher than the average journalists. This is valuable and signifies that news needs to be more varied and open.

City AM’s decision at its best will lead to high quality content from experts. However, the newspaper could risk its reputation if an onslaught of shameless advertorial tat ensues.

Yet again, if the content produced by brands isn’t engaging enough then readership will be down for them, rendering their partnership with City AM worthless. So the onus is now on organisations to produce journalistic content that can navigate issues with credibility.

As mentioned in The Drum,

“… says that the strategy is possible because the City AM audience is open to “thought leadership”. He is surprisingly confident that if ad clients abuse the system, the readers will blame the authors of the misinformation, not the newspaper. “The anger, disappointment and negativity will not feature on the brand of City AM.”

In my view this is the only part of City AM’s approach that makes alarm bells ring in my head. It shows a surprising amount of confidence in City AM’s readers as it’s often difficult to determine the originator of content these days. If an article has ‘advertorial’ slapped on it then I personally tend to skip the article. So understanding how City AM’s readers react to the change will be interesting and could pave the way for other publications in the industry.

However, with my professional interests aside working in PR, I do praise this decision by City AM. It’s brave, and in many ways the only option to develop a media business considering the close ties all journalists already have with sourcing news from PR professionals and brands. What City AM have done is displace the middle-man; whether brands and organisations can be trusted to adhere to journalistic news values – well, that’s another matter.

Facebook reveals 10-year plan to take over the world

Mark F8 3 2016

Social virtual reality, a 360-degree camera, and chat bots in case human conversation becomes mundane. These were some of the announcements from Facebook’s (almost) annual developer conference called Facebook F8, named after the company’s tradition to hold eight hour hackathons.

When CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s 10-year plan was to “Give everyone the power to share anything with everyone”, the small print must have read ‘but only if you advertise’. The plans are ambitious, many projects far beyond the remit of a social networking site, but then Facebook isn’t your average social network; their plans to serve Facebook internet via solar-powered drone showed that.

Facebook roadmap

Numerous reputable news sites have dedicated column inches to Facebook’s big announcements. I personally recommend you visit The Guardian and Time for a quick read of the main events. This blog post looks behind the headlines to see what Facebook F8 may mean in the immediate future for internet-savvy organisations.

Balancing money and social experience

From a social engineering perspective, it could be said that Facebook has become a victim of its own success as the sheer volume of content means that organic (non paid-for) reach is in decline. This means increased competition among friends and brand pages for newsfeed coverage as on average 1,500 new posts could appear each time you log into Facebook. So Facebook’s algorithms attempt to show more high-quality content and from connections who you value the most. Remember that old school friend? Probably not, because Facebook has decided you won’t find value in their content.

The more sceptical side of the organic reach-gate debate would say the newsfeed algorithms have primarily been put in place to enhance Facebook Advertising. This would be cynical and entirely true. Whilst Facebook have denied the drop in organic reach is to fuel their advertising network, there is no doubt that this has been the effect of their decision. Facebook is fundamentally an advertising network and brands must be prepared to invest heavily in paid-for activities in the hope to get noticed.

“Our goal is always to provide the best experience for the people that use Facebook. We believe that delivering the best experiences for people also benefits the businesses that use Facebook. If people are more active and engaged with stories that appear in News Feed, they are also more likely to be active and engaged with content from businesses.” – Brian Boland, leader of the Ads Product Marketing team at Facebook.

The latest in-depth analysis of Facebook’s stock price is optimistic, showing the global active user base to be a whopping 1.4 billion people and their plan to reach users outside of the U.S and Europe is working. This is partly a self-serving prophecy due to the natural stock dip before Facebook F8 and it’s no secret that future cash will come from online advertising. To be precise, increased mobile revenues that will be driven by Instagram and WhatsApp, this is also linked to Facebook’s intent to monetise chat bots (we’ll come onto this later).

The latest in-depth analysis of Facebook’s stock price is optimistic, showing the global active user base to be a whopping 1.4 billion people and their plan to reach users outside of the U.S and Europe is working. This is partly a self-serving prophecy due to the expected stock dip before Facebook F8 and it’s no secret that future cash will come from online advertising. To be precise, increased mobile revenues that will be driven by Instagram and WhatsApp, this is also linked to Facebook’s intent to monetise chat bots (we’ll come onto this later).

The question that hasn’t been asked by the mainstream media when analysing Facebook F8 is “What does the future of online advertising look like?”. This is an article for another day but with expectations that online advertising networks may soon have to ask users for their consent before targeting them with Ads, and questions being raised around the fairness of advertising networks using individual people’s mobile data to target them with useless advertising, Facebook’s 10-year plan may have a bumpy ride.

Meeting shareholder expectations and to continue serving the world’s largest active online user base will be tricky.

Monetising conversations

As a past employee at Microsoft I witnessed the sadness first-hand when Microsoft Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger) was laid to rest. The chat programme, alongside Internet Relay Chat (IRC), were my two-ways of communicating in the post-Facebook world. The launch of Facebook Chat in 2008 had a buggy reception but quickly began eating market share from Microsoft, wounding the giant as advertising revenues fell.

It’s widely accepted that if online advertising continues to grow, then it will need to become smarter than banner ads to gain the attention of users. Especially as the use of ad-blocking solutions soar, with Opera browser saying it will build the feature into their next release. This has made “native advertising” a hot topic, but embedded videos and sponsored articles can still become a nuisance and even misleading for user-experience. Only last week did I read a glowing review of the newly release game Quantum Break to find it was actually sponsored by Microsoft – talk about editorial independence! I won’t get those 10 minutes of my life back.

Chat bots aren’t new to the world, it’s essentially what Google Voice and Siri attempt to do with varying success. However, the ability for Facebook to provide a service where organisations and publishers can utilise chat bots to service their own businesses is new. In fact, you could almost call it revolutionary as it provides businesses a new way to service customers. Examples provided at Facebook F8 showed how the service could be effectively used with Uber and KLM to book services.

How long will it be for a financial services company to offer automated advice to customers? Could a chat bot begin showing signs of artificial intelligence as it trains from conversations you are having with it? Facebook’s chat bot announcement has huge opportunities, not least for monetising WhatsApp in a new way. How could your organisation utilise a chat bot?

Let’s hope that the chat bot future doesn’t go the same way as Microsoft’s Tay, Microsoft’s Twitter bot who quickly became “… a Hitler-loving sex robot”.

Microsoft Tay Hitler

360 Video and Virtual Reality (VR)

Currently the fastest watched video on Facebook is the title sequence for TV show, Game of Thrones. Why? It’s been given a 360 video makeover allowing viewers to look around Westeros and Essos. Have a play; it includes clues for Season 6.

360 video is a new way to share real-world experience and it really is immersive, especially if you match it up with a VR headset. If you have a spare £21,000 you should pop out and buy Facebook’s new 360 video camera, Surround 360, offering 3D and easy 360 video creation that can be uploaded to Facebook. It’s a publisher tool that may begin justifying its price if 360 video becomes the gold standard for video creation, rather than a fad.

As competition in the Facebook newsfeed intensifies utilising new features such as 360 video may give organisations a chance to standout. This is another level of storytelling that is really only for organisations who can afford the price tag, but as with all technologies, we can’t be far away from 360 video becoming a mainstream way of sharing social experiences. The lovely people at Pocket Lint have shared a list of cameras currently offering a 360 view of the world; watch these prices over the next year or two.

 Instant Articles

By far the biggest announcement for publishers and a sign that Mark Zuckerberg is now seriously taking on News UK, Instant Articles is now open for all publishers (even my little blog). Instant Articles are a way for publishers to host their articles directly into Facebook when they hit publish, giving readers a cleaner experience as they don’t have to wait for an external website to load. For publishers this means that they can benefit from an article receiving the traffic from their own website and the reach from Facebook (with a massive caveat around advertising). However, this does also mean Facebook ends up hosting some of the most valuable written content from around the world – potentially devastating for publishers’ own advertising efforts.

Facebook Instant Articles

This announcement was technically made before Facebook F8 but has still managed to continue making the headlines. Increased engagement is claimed and of course, the ability to add in a spot of branded content. Over a 1,000 publishers have joined up and this number will inevitably only go up as Facebook have smartly offered an easy WordPress integration.

What else?

Many more features were announced at Facebook F8, but the ones explored in this article feel the most valuable for me in the immediate future. Facebook’s 10-year roadmap is ambitious and we remain to see if some of their innovative announcements can be monetised in time by pioneering businesses to make the investments worthwhile. Other announcements such as 360-video and improving video quality are safe bets, social virtual reality is fun but currently experimental.

We should all keep our eyes on Facebook’s mysterious building 8 led by Regina Dugan, former Director of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), just to make sure Skynet remains fantasy.

UK companies struggle to manage their reputation in their home market

Reputation Institute, ranking

UK companies are struggling to manage their reputation on their home turf. This is according to a new report published by the Reputation Institute today that is based on more than 50,000 ratings collected in the first quarter of 2016 from members of the UK general public.

The Reputation Institute mix academic vigor with a real-world understanding to measure a company’s ability to deliver on stakeholder expectations based on the seven key rational dimensions of reputation: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership, and performance.

This enables them to rank on a score from 0 – 100, based on overall reputation and grouped into categories:

  • Excellent (80+)
  • Strong (70-79)
  • Average (60-69)
  • Weak (40-59)
  • Poor (Below 40)

This has revealed UK Plcs are losing out on reputation in their home market. Only two of the top 10 companies are UK Plcs, and international companies dominate the top 50. Home-domiciled companies make up just 26% of the top 50 and 41% of the top 150.

As shown below, only four UK companies have been able to build an “Excellent” reputation with a RepTrak® score above 80.

5. Rolls Royce Aerospace (82.6)
6. Aston Martin (82.1)
13. ASOS (80.4)
14. Jaguar Land Rover (80.4)

At the other end of the scale, of the 27 companies who scored “Poor” and sit well outside of the RepTrak® 150 (ranking 251 and below), all but two are UK and Irish companies.

UK companies ranked “Poor” include five utilities and financial services companies, three transport companies, and two gambling and telecom companies. Although it might be unsurprising that UK companies from these sectors perform the worst, there are notable exceptions.

Nationwide Building Society was the top scoring of all UK retail banks, with a “Strong” score of 72.4. O2 also rated strongly in the eyes of the UK general public at 74.9, whereas all other UK telecoms providers failed to score higher than an “Average” performance of 64.

Biggest moves

The following companies have seen the largest improvements from 2015 to 2016:

58. Airbus Group (+12.6 points)
228. HSBC (+9.8 points)
9. Aldi (+9.7 points)
48. Burberry (+9.7 points)
140. Hershey Company (+8.9 points)

The below businesses have seen the largest declines from 2015 to 2016:

267. Volkswagen (-27.4 points)
192. SABMiller (7.9 points)
156. Nestle (-7.7 points)
163. Admiral (-7.3 points)
247. EDF Energy (-7.1 points)

Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen AG falls from having a top 10 reputation (ranked 8th) in 2015 to a vulnerable position in 2016 (ranked 267th) following the high-profile emissions scandal.  The critical factor in this loss of reputation has been a huge drop in the number of consumers willing to support the company in specific circumstances, as shown below.

Recommend company Buy products Give benefit of doubt
2016 24% 28% 20%
2015 56% 58% 53%

Recommendation and trust of Volkswagen AG has decreased by more than half during this time, which underscores the impact that corporate reputation has on the business.

 Why reputation matters

Reputation Institute’s research reveals that reputation drives business results. The better the reputation, the more support a company gets. For companies with an average reputation, only 12% would definitely buy the products; this climbs to 28% if the reputation is strong, but increases to 76% if the reputation is excellent.

“The impact from reputation on the business is massive, which is why the leading companies in the world are managing this asset in a systematic way,” says Nielsen.

In the UK, consumers must consider companies’ reputations “Excellent” in order to have more than 50% of those surveyed claim that they would say something positive about a company, recommend its products, trust it to do the right thing, welcome it into the local community, and work for or invest in it.

Reputation Institute, ranking

The Lego Group, IKEA and BMW Group top the UK RepTrak® 150 ranking of the most reputable companies among the UK general public, Reputation Institute announced today, based on more than 50,000 ratings collected in the first quarter of 2016 from members of the UK general public.

 

Disclaimer: I work with the Reputation Institute at Lansons but I had full editorial independence when writing this article.

Joining the CIPR’s new Future Practitioner Forum

Without the contributions and academic vigour from the PR community, my degree in PR wouldn’t have been possible. Fast-forward four years and I’m lucky to have spent my time in full-time employment, currently delivering online strategies for a range of clients at Lansons. It’s now time to give back to the community, which is why I’m delighted to be one of the members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) new Future Practitioner Forum.

You can read the official announcement here. It’s a successor to the Social Media Panel and will,

“support the CIPR in effectively embedding the wider impact of digital technology, innovation and change in PR across its products, services and policy, as well as identify key future trends’.   Part of the remit is to look at how PR professionals can ‘secure their place as trusted advisers to the CEO, the skillset this requires and how the Institute can best support practitioners as they progress throughout their career”

There are big names included on the panel, many of who I used to reference in my essays before my career in PR! The initiative will be led by Sarah Hall Chart.PR FCIPR who started one of the biggest conversations around the future of PR by releasing the crowd-sourced FuturePRoof book in November 2015.

Our group will focus on the CIPR’s professional development offering, horizon-scanning to ensure each product and service is suitably fit-for-the-future and in line with the Global Alliance’s competency framework. We will also organise a series of events looking at how practitioners can up-skill in order to capitalise on industry changes.

It’s genuinely an honour to be involved, especially alongside so many talented practitioners. The agenda for the Future Practitioner Forum is ambitious, timely, and the contributions generated will hopefully help shape the development of the industry.

The Independent: where print declines, online soars

The Independent newspaper

Standing in front of keen-eyed sixth form students, I delivered the blow of realism. Your career in public relations will be more digital than you can imagine. After pulling up the print circulation of broadsheet and tabloid newspapers from the past few years, the narrative was clear; most people prefer to read online than pick up a wad of print. It’s a simple behavioural shift, a natural progression for the UK that boasts an 89.8% internet penetration rate. Two days later The Independent announced its “digital chapter” ending 25 years of print, over 100 job loses are expected.

The Independent newspaper

In my view the opportunities from an online only news site far outweighs print counterparts. Publications like The Economist have successfully built from selling words to podcasts, several app editions, maintaining an online community on LinkedIn; the trick is learning to monetise these avenues. Goliath newsrooms who keep 500+ staff tirelessly crafting top-quality journalism are shrinking, expected to be half the size in five years’ time. Even trade publications are becoming less frequent, even a side-project as journalists seek a full-time career elsewhere (it’s not uncommon this side career is in PR).

Five years ago I organised a meet the media event with top tech trade journalists, who piled into a creative space featuring bar and foosball table (standard creative room accessory!). One journalist took a look at the space and said ‘We used to have all of this 20 years ago, now PRs have the money’. I couldn’t help but notice one group by the bar discussing job concerns, talented journalists whose publications were struggling.

Where print declines, online soars. No truer is this when you manage to get an organisation coverage in the Mail Online, which is the most visited English-language newspaper website in the world with a whopping 60+ billion visits a month (see up-to-date stats here). Sod print, give me online. Especially as PR is in the business of managing reputation, a bit of print copy is tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper – online is immortal.

As a blogger, the importance of online delivery in securing the business model of journalism fascinates me. In 2005 I cast my foot into the waters of blogging for the first time and the wider media described bloggers as disrupters of the traditional news model. Bloggers would lead the march of citizen journalists, common people who would be able to deliver news quickly and efficiently through sharing before newspapers.

This idealistic thinking swelled with the launch of the first iPhone in 2007 as nations became armed photographers seeking the next story. The Guardian eventually launched Guardian Witness to help capture and edit this modern news resource, especially important to understand the unbiased nature of reporting. It’s fair to say this disruption did not come to pass, whilst publications like The Huffington Post have roots in blogging, the real disruption would happen directly to newspapers.

When news exists online it has to play to the same economical rules of the internet; for bloggers and mainstream news organisations. In theory this means my blog could be matched alongside trade publications when it comes to search engine rankings and social media shares. This is essentially what journalist Heidi Blake described when she made the decision to move from The Sunday Times to Buzzfeed. If The Independent properly understands these opportunities by investing in the right talent, then the next year should see some worthwhile developments. Perhaps it should look at The Times and Buzzfeed for a comparison to find inspiration as a modern news organisation.

Far from The Independent being dead, the nation still knows it as The Indie. You won’t be able to buy it in newsagents but you can still access its journalism in seconds from your smartphone or tablet, I even get updates to my Apple Watch. However, its move to the digital space should be marked by all PR practitioners as a sign that media relations alone will not be enough to keep our work afloat over the next five years; reputation is no longer isolated to the barriers of print.