Musings from the London Underground: a social indicator that PR will remain relevant

I am heading home aboard the Hammersmith and City Line on a lazy Sunday afternoon and this middle-aged woman is doing the most remarkable thing.

With a pencil in hand and a pocket-sized drawing book, she is doodling what I think could be a chef-d'oeuvre. A heart-warming image of who I presume is her husband with a toddler straddled across his chest, as they both catch a nap opposite her.

Within ten minutes she completes her sketch and turns the next page quickly glancing around for the next inspiration. At this point I have missed my stop as I speechlessly watch her in awe.

To the indifferent visitor, the London Underground is but part of a generally efficient transport system. However, for me it proves to be an important tool and the perfect opportunity to be a novice sociologist and gather some intrinsic understanding regarding the country’s social fabric.

And if my observations are anything to go by, the communications industry is set to experience robust growth and increased relevance in the UK and as content creators, PR practitioners are poised to be at the centre of this revolution.

The British books market is turning over a new leaf as reported last year and this is evident after a 10 minute journey on the London Underground. A significant number of people will immediately embark on reading the next chapter of their book and it will bother them little whether they are standing or seated.

From biographies and journals to fiction novels and anthologies, the British books and e-readers market, is alive again and a hunger for knowledge, information, inspiration and entertainment is rife.

This, I believe, creates the perfect opportunity for PR firms to work with the entire publishing chain in ensuring books reach the readers and authors get the same recognition that British authors of yester years enjoyed. Most recently, J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter trilogy, and the father of literature himself, Geoffrey Chaucer, provide appetising motivation.

If not reading a book, the average Londoner is on his/her smartphone rummaging through social media pages, news and lifestyle websites. And there's the occasional flicking across popular betting websites on game days. The content on these websites will have originated from a communications source, either an in-house PR, creative, media or digital department or their agencies.

With 76% of adults in the UK now owning smartphones and that number growing, content creators, and indeed PR practitioners will become more relevant. The big challenge will be how to apply compelling online storytelling by presenting meaningful engagement that goes beyond selling the client’s agenda to influencing behaviour, perceptions and attitudes.

Do you wonder why music streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify are raking in millions? Get onto the London Underground and you soon get a sense that we are only just scratching the surface of what will be a content crazed future. A significant number of people will have headphones on probably streaming Adele’s latest single, watching Coldplay’s latest music video, or keeping up with the Kardashians.

The Metro and Evening Standard newspapers are free and conspicuous for any traveller providing the daily dose of politics, business, human interest stories and the much loved celebrity gossip. Celebrity gossip is big business in London and has seen the tabloid media subsectors thrive. It is the UK’s guilty pleasure and the London Underground is the place for it.

These newspapers, as well as free magazines such as Shortlist, Stylist, Timeout, NME and Sport fuel the already raging content consumption fire in the UK, as well as provide the communications industry with key mediums for both editorial and marketing.

All this content creates a gold mine for PR and communications practitioners to target audiences in as many ways as possible. This is the salient feature that makes communication an immortal industry. To quoteDr. Masibo Lumala, my university professor from Moi University in Kenya, “we cannot not communicate”. So, it gives me great comfort that our industry is not about to slow down.

David Karega

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search