The PR field is not the same as it was ten years ago. Today, we must embrace the digitalisation in communication to cater the market demands and changes. From crisis management, to stakeholder engagement and client servicing, every aspect of PR is shifting towards the digital sphere. Consultancies need to keep up with the digital trends in order to serve clients effectively within this reality.
Jonathan Tan, the Managing Director of Vox Eureka, shares his thoughts on the role of communication in the era when digital transformation is happening rapidly across industries.
PRCA Malaysia: In your opinion, what is the role of communications in the digital transformation process?
Jonathan Tan: Digital transformation is a journey of change – and change can be messy, frustrating and pointless if everyone in an organisation is not on the same page. To use an anatomical analogy: if cash is the bloodstream of every business, then communications is its
From an internal standpoint, it takes on a sensory role. It demands active listening and getting ‘an accurate pulse’ from all stakeholders, be it from the boardroom to the front liners. Robust dialogue then helps when segmenting and prioritising between internal and customer-facing process streams.
With all this laid on the table, organisations can then make informed, cost-efficient decisions on how best to embark on their digital journey:
- What technologies or partners do we need?
- What solutions are available in-market at our price-point?
- Can we ensure business continuity as we transform?
- What training or upskilling do our personnel require?
The nervous system is also important externally. Just as it facilitates consciousness, posture, and emotions in the body, communications guards and expresses the organisation’s values, bonds, and reputation through clear, transparent dialogue with external stakeholders.
PRCA Malaysia: Can you share with us some of the best practices in digital communications?
Jonathan Tan: Fundamentally, going digital does not change the principles nor best practices of ‘conventional’ communications; it merely demands a change in the tools we use and canvases we express on. The three that are most oft repeated – and perhaps timeless are:
- Be authentic
At its core, most businesses are not selling products or services. We’re selling what we stand for, thus every business must define and differentiate its own identity and value system. Your voice should then be true and consistent to this core, be it in your messages or conduct.
- Yearn to dialogue
One of the most frustrating misconceptions of communications is that it is cheap publicity. Yet, those who truly understand its significance recognise that the best brands are not those that push messages but pursue constant, two-way, symbiotic relationships with their stakeholders. The most loved and reputed brands are those that resonate with customers and involve them on their journeys.
- Expect to adapt (again, and again)
Digitalisation is simply modernisation repeating itself at a significantly quicker pace – so much so that even Moore’s law is widely considered dead. This tells us that all organisations and businesses should be prepared for continuous evolution, and the agility to be adaptable must be a key culture and practice across all personnel. Technological ecosystems, usage adoption and consumption behaviours will never remain constant for long. What must persist, is our desire and capacity to keep learning whilst also setting in place agile, scalable infrastructures and cultures so that future transitions will be as seamless as possible.
PRCA Malaysia: Do you think traditional PR practices will be replaced by digital PR in the near future? Why?
Jonathan Tan: Not in the slightest. Principally, they are the same – just adapted and expressed across newer canvases and platforms.
It is not a question of one eradicating the other, and I echo many industry peers who have reiterated that this role is more integral and critical today than ever before, amplified by restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
When the Movement Control Order (MCO) was first announced, we observed most organisations turned to their in-house corporate communications or consultancies to ensure business continuity plans were in place and activated.
Subsequently, we were the ears pressed to the ground for social impact opportunities, and now the eyes peeled wide open for business recovery opportunities in the new normal.
This impulse of organisations turning to PR during its most dire circumstances is testament that PR will never grow obsolete. Rigid, conventional thinking and methods, on the other hand, should.
We are the invisible essential. When the going gets tough, we will be there for brands and businesses. And we know that in life, there are always tough days around the corner.
PRCA Malaysia would like to thank Jonathan for his multi-dimensional thoughts and views on how digitalisation is transforming the PR field. We hope the interview provides our members with new insights that will prove beneficial in the near future!