by Michael O'Neill
May 20th, 2013

Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, recently released its new study titled ‘The Nexus of Forces’. The study refers to the perfect intersection of the four biggest technological phenomena of our time: cloud, Big Data, social media and mobility. It is a movement that is transforming and disrupting the way people relate to technology, and forcing businesses of all kinds to catch up, fast.

But what does this trend mean for people working in the PR industry? How does Gartner’s proposition fit with our belief that we are in a new era of engagement?

For the first time ever, it’s everyday people who are leading the way, driving brands to engage on their terms. The individual is at the centre of the Nexus, changing profoundly how communications professionals need to think in order to achieve results.

Push and pull: the changing dynamics of PR

Communications has always been a game of push and pull. Traditionally, brands ‘pull’ in intelligence about how consumers perceive, purchase, use and talk about their products, and then ‘push’ out information about themselves.

In the past, the ‘push’ element has been the focus, but the ‘Nexus of Force’ is changing that, making it easier than ever for brands to understand, listen to, and engage with consumers in any place, at any time.

Consumers are tired of the ‘push’ approach. They have become co-marketeers. One-way content alone is no longer enough, and consumers now search for and demand conversation and interaction, both with and about brands. With ‘connected devices’ like smartphones now a fact of life amongst almost every socioeconomic stratum, people everywhere have greater access to massive communities of buyers, countless consumer reviews, and previously unknown competitor brands across the globe. Businesses that fail to inspire and engage their audiences, wherever and whenever it is most convenient for those consumers, will become obsolete.

When it comes to the ‘pull’ element, new technologies like ‘Big Data’ analytics (tools that allow brands to interpret vast amounts of rich information) are helping companies do a better job of meeting consumer needs. For the first time ever, the ‘pull’ of gathering consumer information is at least as important as the ‘push’ of selling the brand, and data is fast becoming the most powerful currency as it can give businesses a huge competitive edge, if harnessed correctly.

Meanwhile, the cloud is making it possible for brands to make their findings known cross-functionally within the company, so that everyone, from research and development to the finance department, is working to meet the specific requirements of the consumer. And consumers are also using the cloud, hosting and accessing deep repositories of information to help them stay connected to what they love: music, video, images and more.

A scientific future?

Historically, the PR field has been thought of as an art, an industry for wordsmiths, where story ideas are plucked out of the air and spun into something beautiful. With the transformative impact of the Nexus, our industry is increasingly becoming a science. This means empirical evidence is being applied more often, and PR professionals are becoming experts in systematic observation, measurement and methodical experimentation of consumer perceptions and behaviour. With this evidence as a framework, more informed ideas are emerging, and increasingly compelling campaigns are being developed.

Working in PR and specialising in technology, it is hard to ignore the new model of engagement being brought about by all this technological change. It will ultimately mean more engaged consumers and a more quantifiable impact for brands. Brands that embrace these new possibilities will flourish, finding new ways to deeply connect with their audiences and in turn new business models, while those that don’t will simply fade away.

Katy Berg is a consultant in the technology practice, Australia, at Weber Shandwick

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