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Three 2016 PR Predictions That Might Be Surprising

3 surprising predictionsMany top PR firms try their hand at predicting industry trends. Each year, the published punditry seems to agree on some evolution in the business of public relations, which is part of why it’s so much fun to work in PR. Here’s our take on some of the biggest trends for 2016.

2016 will be the year we master content and realize its full potential. Quality content, and lots of it, will continue to be critical to successful PR. But the rules are evolving. Content quality must be unimpeachable, and paid amplification (“spending money to leverage somebody else’s channel”) will be the route to enhancing and expanding the content you publish.

Branded content will stay big. Some companies are executing in such standout fashion it took brand content to a new level. Examples include Warby Parker, whose blog reads like a well-curated, must-read list for the stylish and literate, and Casper, who made sleep a sexy topic.

Finally, less may be more when it comes to content. Consider the rise of “scarce content” – a term coined by Clive Thompson, bestselling author of Smarter Than You Think. The notion that a sparse publishing schedule that features the best and most in-depth content on a specific topic, may actually be more valuable than shorter and more general pieces is borne out in the tale of Demand Media’s rise and fall.

The press release will survive.  PR pros have been proclaiming the death of the press release for years, yet it lives on. We still use the news release, although these days it’s more likely to support follow-up upon after securing an exclusive or to enhance search. Press releases also provide the important background reporters need after reading the email pitch that initially hooks them. Rest assured that they still have life ahead, as suggested by this week’s $841 million acquisition of  PR Newswire by Cision.

But I wonder if we should worry about another venerable PR tool, the consumer survey, which some call worthless. I beg to differ! Owned data is a valuable source of proprietary content, and nationally projectable surveys can offer juicy insights on everything from shopping to sleep. Whether producing stand-alone coverage or inserting factoids into broader pieces, media have traditionally eaten up the data as well. But like content, surveys need to be compelling and original – no small task for 2016.

2016 will see more “thought leaders 2.0.” Take a successful executive and mold his musings into smart, interesting content that can be purposed and re-purposed to engage with critical audiences….instant thought leader! It may not be that easy, however, and in 2016, the competition for thought-leadership supremacy will heat up given the recent rise of clever new tech startups and their ambitious young founders, fueled by the VC cash that’s been so freely available in the past few years.

Millennials are re-shaping the leadership conversation, which will place more emphasis on “soft skills”-related content and less on growth and and technical output. In a recent Virtuali survey, 63 percent of millennial respondents expressed the desire to be “transformational leaders who inspire others.” Skills and insights that link to communication, relationship-building and the ability to develop others emerged as the top qualities. So-called “hard skills,” such as technical expertise and general business knowledge, ranked lowest. Regardless of the subject matter, the truly worthy thought leaders will rise to the top by dint of smart, forward-thinking ideas and commentary that stimulates audiences.

As will the savvy PR strategists behind them. We predicts that PR professionals who can master the new content and leadership trends while balancing smart usage of traditional tools, will be ahead of the game in 2016.

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