Ten Trends That Will Affect Public Relations Pros In 2011

PR is reaching a golden age, triggered by the growth of social media and new, more relevant metrics. PR is dead, a bridesmaid in the hot pursuit of larger budgets and sexy social programs. The predictions are all over the map, but, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Here’s our list for the top trends that will have an impact on how we do our jobs in the coming year.

1.  Curation, not just content, is king. For social media platforms to maintain their hypergrowth, they must make it easier for us to organize, filter, and customize the content coming our way. And, as creators and aggregators, we’ll fill that role for the content we distribute to client and corporate audiences.

2.  Digital storytelling is a big story. As mainstream media opportunities shrink, communicators are increasingly the producers and packagers of our own content. Use of images, video, and particularly infographics, to impart news and track trends, will be differentiators. Check out Bob Pickard’s blog for excellent insights on digital storytelling, and the more scientific approach he forecasts for public relations.

3.  Social everything. The explosion of social shopping, gaming, and learning will create more opportunities for branding and consumer engagement. Look for the Groupon promotion model to migrate beyond consumer sectors, perhaps into professional services. (PR programs by the dozen?) We need to find ways to make content as social and “spreadable” as possible throughout the Web.

4.  Multicultural marketing gets more attention, and funding. In addition to demographic trends, the Web is rapidly becoming a more multicultural, multilingual place, making multicultural marketing and communications talent in our business highly sought-after.

5.  Reputation management drives corporate priorities. Marketing PR as a demand generation and brand-building tool isn’t going away, but “defensive PR” will be even bigger than ever. The tolerance for a poor or inadequate response to bad customer feedback, or a genuine crisis situation, will become even smaller in 2011.

6.  Customer service is the new PR. Public relations practitioners and customer service professionals will collaborate more, as each needs to be skilled in dealing directly with the customer – often under stressful circumstances. With the ubiquity of the social Web and the growth of the “complaint culture,” our skills in interfacing directly with communities, and managing a two-way communication channel, will be highly valued.

7.  Offlining gains steam. We’re hyper-connected, yes. But as data speeds grow and devices proliferate, many of us will be unplugging, at least temporarily, to recharge and detox. I’m convinced that Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo are really onto something with their offlining movement, at least among those over 35.

8.  Mobile is mainstream. The Web is dead, long live the Internet. Given new categories of mobile devices and the coming of 4G, the content we distribute will be increasingly adapted to tablets, smartphones, and other devices. This has implications for length, optimization, graphics, and links. More importantly, our audiences may be accessing the Web from behind pay walls and commercial apps, which means we need to be more creative and forward-thinking to reach them with branded messages.

9.  New measurement models catch on. Communicators have gained a grasp on the measurement tools that help justify our budgets and benefit from a return to pre-recession marketing expenditures. The currency of the future isn’t just reach, popularity, or traffic, but sentiment and influence. Industry vendors like Cision are hyping new tools that offer real-time monitoring of all online content, with automated features like sentiment analysis for more sophisticated profiling of a wider range of influencers.

10. The “new” influencer is the crowd. Influence will become more democratic in 2011 and beyond. Look for more media companies to take decisions about top stories, lists, and even business direction to their readers. Corporations will also be more willing to crowdsource new products, company promotions, and possibly try out new business models in the coming years.

What do you see as trends for 2011 and beyond? Please tell us your ideas, and we’ll post updates with the most intriguing suggestions.

Offlining: The New Digital Detox

I’ve known for a while that multitasking is a lie. I don’t know anyone who can truly spread their attention across multiple jobs with equal focus. Like most people, I tend to toggle back and forth among tasks – blogging, watching Top Chef, listening to my daughter, ruminating about tomorrow’s schedule. It’s like trying to eat a five-course meal by tasting everything at once. It’s possible, but the net result is less enjoyment, if not lower efficiency.

But readjusting your relationship with technology isn’t simple. Because we’re addicts. That’s the other given of our media-feasting culture. Take the sturdy, un-hip BlackBerry. The form factor isn’t sleek like the newer Android devices or even the iPhone. But, on top of every ‘Berry, there’s that red light that blinks when a new message arrives. Reports say that users actually become hooked on the light. It’s a Pavlovian response. We’re helpless. If not CrackBerry, it’s at the very least the Starbucks of digital devices.

And though our appetite is still huge, the human capacity isn’t infinite. There’s that famous Matt Richtel piece about the dangers of technology overload.  It describes how our always-on access to digital gadgets affects how we process information, and how quickly we become distracted…leading us to crave more stimulation, which raises our distraction threshold. You get the idea. Your brain on technology. Next stop, digital detox?

In a way, yes. It’s called offlining, and it’s meant to culminate this Saturday, September 18, for a national day of being unplugged. The idea, which was (of course) dreamed up by a PR guy and an ad guru, was officially unveiled on Father’s Day of this year, as part of a call-to-action for parents to spend more time in face-to-face interaction with their families.

If the offliners have their way, the solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur will be not just the occasion for religious atonement, but a day of digital fasting. Cold turkey…without the turkey, the ‘Berry, the sweets, the tweets, or any of the digital soup we’re bathed in. So far, over 10,000 people pledged to have 10 “device-free” dinners between June and this Saturday. To help spread the word, you can send e-cards downloaded from the offlining website to a tech-addicted friend or family member.

It’s a gimmick, but I love the offlining idea for the same reason that I appreciate the Heart Truth  or Earth Day, or any other call-to-action in the public education model. It’s a terrific use of the power of public relations to raise awareness and even change behavior. For me, a one-day digital fast won’t be too difficult, but it’s symbolic, of course. There’s plenty of room for improvement in my relationship to technology, and every reason to find new ways to cherish my relationship with family.

And there’s one more person in this mix who can use some attention, and that’s me. I’m not Jewish, and, candidly, if I were, I probably wouldn’t mix religious observance with a self-improvement binge, no matter how worthy. But on Saturday, I just might stop the posting and the tweeting and the Facebooking and the Foursquare to have a more important check-in …with myself.