Trends That Will Shape PR in 2018

What can PR  professionals expect in 2018? Despite the acceleration of change, new directions don’t always announce themselves. Yet in 2017 we’ve seen specific trends that might reasonably be expected to continue through next year. Here are some we’ve noticed.

Brand advocacy will grow

Shortly before the inauguration of the new president, some brands  went against convention and waded into political territory. We saw the Coca-Cola company air a Super Bowl ad featuring a stream of attractive, multiethnic people set against “America the Beautiful,” sung in various languages. Anheuser Busch seemed to take on immigration policy in another Super Bowl spot. Corporate CEOs rallied to aid those affected by the administration’s suddenly announced travel ban.
Nearly a year later, those moves seem almost like baby steps. Mainstream marketers are gradually losing their reluctance to advocate for politically and socially charged issues in their paid content and corporate social responsibility positions. Get ready for more of the same in 2018.

Visual storytelling will be better and easier

If you’ve any doubt about the power of visual storytelling, check out these superb examples by brands large and small. In 2018 we’re likely to experience more technology-assisted visual storytelling and experimentation by brands. A study of 1478 professionals by Wibbitz shows that 80 percent use automation tools for visual content creation, and that more than three quarters say they will expand visual content creation in the coming year. PR and marketing pros will  increasingly look to automation and data technology tools to ramp up efficiency and output of compelling and highly searchable content.

Paid and earned media will come together

Earned media has kept its value as a public relations outcome. In an era plagued by charges of “fake news,” the influence of trusted brand domains and recognizable journalism is more important than ever. However, earned media alone may not be enough in today’s competitive social content landscape. PR professionals will need to understand how to use content tools and paid techniques to amplify the earned and shared content that results from their efforts. In 2018 we’ll see a continuation of the branded content trend as major companies adopt traditional journalistic techniques, along with technology-assisted storytelling, to create engaging content.

Ad dollars will move to influencer marketing

The competition for consumer mindshare has meant that marketers realize the value of engagement created by influencer relationships. We’ve also seen an expansion of those we call influencers, from academic experts, authors, and analysts, to political pundits, creators, and youthful YouTubers. Marketers have been shifting budgets into influencer marketing for the past few years, as paid advertising has declined and the definition of influence has broadened and changed. Over the past few years, so-called micro-influencers have been popular as a cost-effective and relatively automated tool as well. But 2018 will likely see a move to deeper, more long-term, more organic influencer partnerships. It may also set up a tussle between PR and marketing for ownership of the influencer budget and relationship.

Public relations will emerge as a strategic management function

Many would say that public relations has already fulfilled its potential as a management discipline, but this is true largely within multinational corporations, and even there, the corporate communications function does not always report into the CEO. Nor has PR embedded itself into academic community and its thought leadership and alumni networks. But the commitment of professional organizations like The PR Council and CIPR, which is working toward greater academic involvement by PR leadership, is changing the equation. So is the work of individual mega-agencies who support the inclusion of a robust PR curriculum at business schools. And the decades-long effort to create a true methodology for evaluating outcomes has placed PR on a track to come into its own.

The Future Of PR: 5 Trends To Watch

Predictions are easy, and the PR business is no exception. We don’t yet have the flying cars that were predicted when I was in grammar school, but I’ve never stopped prognosticating. Our team has looked into the not-too-distant future to scope trends that all PR practitioners need to be aware of and embrace.

Engagement is an art, not necessarily a science

Skilled communicators can gain a great deal by understanding the sociology of peer groups and the psychology of identified audiences. We already know that it isn’t enough to talk at a consumer by broadcasting a new product message. Success is achieved through a personalized approach that takes into account intangibles like emotions, values, or lifestyle. Only then can the monologue evolve into a true dialogue.

Embrace the [media] disruption

Begin with the premise that non-traditional media/content producers like bloggers, citizen journalists and influencers need to be treated as partners. Start a relationship by approaching these third-party disruptors with no agenda other than sending facts and news. Allow them to disseminate as they see fit. Marketers don’t own your brand anymore; your customers do.

Metrics are not optional

Slowly, we’re moving toward acceptable measurement practices that will help ensure the future of our industry. PR outcomes are still not easily measured, but the days of “vanity metrics” like impressions and AVEs are dying away. Aligning the PR strategy – and the spend – with business goals is now the first step in program development.

Big Data = Smart Data

Someone once said they went into PR because they were lousy with numbers. Well, many of the most successful PR stories incorporate “numbers” – statistics, percentages, analytics, formulas- creatively packaged to make news for a client (particularly when the client is between “real” news stories.) Another plus? These stories can be told visually in very engaging ways that work with the way we consume media now and more so in the future.

Customize your next “dream team”

With specialization and niche marketing creating a greater need for PR people with diverse skill sets, “core” teams are going to need flexibility to meet the demands of introducing new and different products and services. As great as it is to have a giant pool of PR resources at your fingertips, the “smart money” is betting that we’ll be bringing in key players on a per-project basis, creating a smart strategic and financial model for sound PR servicing.

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.