Like everything else in the marketing universe, public relations has changed in recent years. The shifts haven’t been as disruptive as those for traditional advertising, but they are no less dramatic. A PR practitioner who started a decade ago will find that the ripple effect from media and technology trends has affected every aspect of how we plan programs, approach media, and report to clients.

Here are the top new rules for PR professionals in the digital age.

Today’s Rules for PR Professionals

PR is less about selling and more about telling. The days of high-pressure media pitching tactics are over. Today’s best media relations experts are more focused on helping brands identify differentiators, shape a narrative, and tell their story, often by matching it with influencers or social ambassadors for whom it’s particularly relevant. The “smile-and dial” media relations ethos is a dinosaur in today’s rules for PR professionals.

Thought leadership isn’t just for B2B brands. Time was a consumer product CEO was a background player and a corporation’s reputation was only relevant in the event of a sudden crisis situation. Fast-forward to 2016, and social media has made every factor of corporate reputation―from customer service to CEO behavior―a part of PR’s territory. Today it’s vital for corporate executives to position themselves and their companies as leaders. They must offer ideas and inspiration, not just great products and services. That means more PR professionals are at work on executive visibility and content programs and reputation management is built into every program.

Online influencers have replaced celebrities. As reported in PR Week, a survey of 500 PR and marketing professionals found that 82 per cent are using influencers, and that thirty-eight percent of those are engaging social media personalities or bloggers. Back in the day, we rented a TV entertainer for a product launch or an athlete for a special event. Now the use of social or digital influencers far outstrips promotional deals with more “traditional” TV or film celebrities―named by only twenty percent of those surveyed.

PR includes SEO basics. Today’s PR practitioner must be knowledgeable about SEO. In today’s rules for PR professionals, it’s all about content where quality and relevance have replaced quantity (and keyword-stuffed press releases) as the meat and potatoes of an effective PR campaign. Optimized content is shareable content, so fluency with relevant keywords and content marketing techniques is a necessary skill. Beyond content, knowledge of SEO techniques can even guide selection of media targets because it’s all about the data.

Press releases are over. They’re not completely dead, but press releases are used far more sparingly than they once were. To make the most of a newsworthy announcement, it’s better to offer it as an “exclusive,” or first-use basis, to a key media outlet, and then distribute it broadly for maximum pickup. Newswire releases are reserved for announcements that need to get into the public record, not for generating coverage. And if the announcement isn’t media worthy, there’s even less reason for a press release. Good riddance.

One of our most important tasks is content creation, but with the explosion of digital conPaid and earned media distribution tactics are essential.tent, distribution is more important than ever. Few campaigns are maximized without paid content distribution tools or tactics, so today’s PR person is knowledgeable about social optimization and familiar with services like Taboola and Outbrain.

Everything is measurable and measured. The rise of data-driven marketing has been a tough adjustment for many PRs because we’re not typically trained in analytics, and there’s been no industry wide standard for evaluation of earned media outcomes. But the new rules for PR professionals are catching up. A coalition of professional groups has promoted guiding principles for benchmarking and measuring of PR programs, and there’s plenty of practical advice on how to put the principles into practice.