It’s been an eventful couple of weeks.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent the Salt Malaysia team at the HR Vendors of the Year awards dinner last week. We carried two awards home that night and we were over the moon knowing how hard the team has strived to make 2019 a phenomenal year. More importantly, we were given a moment to stop and appreciate all the wonderful things we’ve done to change people’s lives.

But that’s not all we’re celebrating.

We also hosted an event of our own – our very first Salt Digital Spotlight session dedicated to the PR & Communications industry. Over 50 people gathered within the cosy corners of Marta’s Kitchen @Sri Hartamas for an evening of networking and knowledge sharing around a very pertinent topic: The Evolution of Communications.

We were extremely honoured to have had the chance to collaborate with a powerhouse panel: Andreas Vogiatzakis (Star Media Group CEO), Jennifer Kang (Standard Chartered), Anoushka Bhar (Axiata Digital) & Kristy Christie (IABC Malaysia), facilitated by Varian Ignatius (Petronas) as our moderator.

They each had a unique story to share; a mix of professional views and personal experiences that emphasised the value of embracing change and having an adaptive mindset to stay relevant in an industry that is constantly evolving.

We can all agree that the digital age has arrived with a set of challenges. A critical (and obvious) change is the media landscape and our consumption habits around content. We’ve moved from the era of traditional mass media to this reliability on digital. A new paradigm shift is already in motion as consumers around the world are moving from mobile-first to mobile-only, a phenomenon that’s being spearheaded by a succeeding digital generation.

On one hand, this level of interactivity is an immense opportunity. Brands are able to speak to people rather than at them, which places a much greater emphasis on content. On the other, it has created new, complex responsibilities for communications professionals. They have to constantly challenge the norms to make their efforts more targeted and measurable, and to speak in one consolidated voice across the multiple platforms.

The panellists went over the highs and lows in the industry, implications of new media trends and some of the skills needed for communications professionals to thrive in the years to come.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all content. People are empowered to choose how they’d like to receive information, and whether they’d want to engage with it and share it. This has pressed for a new hyper-personalised approach to planning that inevitably involves data and analytics. The question is: How can we turn the abundance of information into insights to measure performance and subsequently craft the right narratives for the right audience?

As we know, earned coverage has been the holy grail in PR but tracking exact audience reach can be difficult. The channels and digital tactics we have today offer more immediate and tangible results. 

So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a demand for new skills and tighter integrations, pushing the barriers of old school PR to fit into the marketing dynamics of new media.

PR today stands for more than events, press releases and media relations. That's not to say that the fundamental aspects are out of fashion, but perhaps the traditional methods are. Many modern-day professionals wear the hat of social media specialist, content marketer and trend spotter all in one! The way I see it, it’ll take a bit of a mindset shift to look at them as digital consultants too. 

The panellists went on to address the interconnected relationship (or rather blurred lines) between PR & marketing. I for one strongly believe that the communications function holds a distinct value within the corporate structure - not to mention other crucial responsibilities such as crisis communications, public affairs, employee engagement and CSR. However, it’s not uncommon to see communications jobs with an overlap of skill sets, particularly around the shared responsibilities of social media.

From our observations, complementary skills for communications professionals to get on board with include SEO, Google Analytics, influencer marketing, social media listening, digital advertising and creative content creation. At any level, it's important to cease every opportunity to upskill, and Kristy made a brilliant point about business acumen too – understanding your role from a business standpoint and aligning campaign goals with business goals.

Despite the trends and shifting demands, it’s hard to think that technology could replicate our skills, especially in an industry that is driven by compelling content, relationships and creativity. If anything, we’d expect to see more specialised roles further breaking down the silos between communications and digital marketing.

What made the event a huge success for me was the engagement and passion that filled the room. From consultants to heads of department, digital advocates and aspiring leaders, we made new friends and learned heaps from each other!