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Ten Trends Affecting PR Professionals In 2010

Despite their overabundance this time of year, I’m a fan of lists. They impose structure and order on what is actually messy, imperfect, and disorderly. But, because I missed the 2009 list window I’ve taken a crack at identifying the major trends affecting our business and what they’ll mean in 2010 and beyond.

1.   Social and traditional media will merge. Or, the distinctions will become meaningless. I know, duh. But, for most of us, 2010 will finally see the death of the one-way communications channel. As traditional press has begun to be disintermediated, we’ll be “relating” directly to our publics as often as not. Social media will be so integrated through our programs that the very term will be anachronistic – it’s all media. And, we need to be knowledgeable not only about online media, but about the emerging social trends – social gaming, social shopping, and new forms of viral content.

2.   Content will be king – if it’s relevant, compelling, and searchable. In a sense, traditional journalists and PR professionals have been trading roles. As more journalists cross over into PR, we PR professionals are broadening our conventional job description to the point where we can be an online and offline content resource to complement – or even rival – “old” media. The trick is to ratchet up our output to make fresh, relevant, compelling content a daily creative product.

3.   Quality will become scarcer. With the explosion of blogs and user-generated content, it’s awfully hard to find the good stuff. That means communications professionals must step into the void as the quality content resource, at every level. Every member of the account team is producing, posting, updating, high-quality material. It also means that old-fashioned research and reporting skills and adherence to journalistic rigor (e.g., fact-checking) will be prized.

4.   Consumer expectations are higher than ever. They’re in control, the’re using social media as a megaphone, and they expect brands and companies to deliver on their promises. Increasingly, customers also expect brands to stand for something beyond their own attributes. According to Brandingstrategyinsider.com, “smart marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet expectations.” 

5.   Everything must be targeted – or targetable. Micro-targeting is the watchword for 2010. News, content, and entertainment are increasingly personalized. And, with original content needing to be as mashable, adapable, and “spreadable” as possible for users, mapping back to brand strategy is critical. So is in-depth knowledge of our increasingly fragmented audiences. 

6.   Reputation is more fragile than ever. With the rise of Social Media, previously tangential areas like customer service, retail environment, and word-of-mouth are a huge part of the brand conversation – and its reputation. Couple that with the speed of real-time search, and it amounts to a very high bar for strategic smarts, crisis preparedness, and rapid mobilization.

7.   Everything will be measurable. Increasingly, PR professionals must be familiar with current analytics and measurement tools if we’re to justify our budgets and collaborate with marketers. We’ll also work more with SEO experts as brand and corporate reputation looms larger on the social Web. In fact, Daryl Tay of Blue Interactive feels that sentiment analysis will become more important to future marketers, which means we need to move beyond strictly automated metrics that don’t capture nuances of language or a reputational threat.

8.   But, how we measure up will take many forms. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, marketing results will be evaluated not just in recommendations, but in eyeballs, shakes and finger swipes. The number of blogs, articles, tweets and diggs. The number of acquisitions, conversions, calls, responses or purchases. Check-ins on foursquare and check-outs on Amazon.” 

9.  News and content will be increasingly mobile. More and more news, content, and entertainment will be accessed via smartphones and other mobile devices. This has implications not only for the quality and length of what we produce, but for how we reach and engage with consumers and media. And the rise of geolocation services offers opportunities for marketing and PR professionals, not only for enhancing the relevance of our content, but for event marketing and PR-driven promotions.   

10. Influencers will have more influence. Influencer marketing will be bigger than ever in 2010. The vaunted relationship component of what we do will be more complex and more interesting, particularly if more online communities and social networks go behind walls to behave like exclusive clubs. So, we not only have to find the influencers for every category, we need to be them.

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Comments

  1. Tina Brooks

    I agree that PR professionals will be producing and promoting more and varied forms of content in ways that we never did before. And, I hope you’re right that we’ll step in when it comes to the “quality vacuum.” but, I’m not sure that, as an industry, we’re prepared to step in and raise the quality standard, particularly if the writing abilities of those entering the profession are any barometer.

  2. Dorothy Crenshaw

    Yes, many have observed that. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think there’s a place for high-quality, journalistic or promotional writing, even in the age of the 140-character post. And I do see some communications graduates with excellent online writing skills.

  3. Steve Haweeli

    I completely agree – especially with news and content becoming increasingly mobile. We think we’ll be creating iPhone apps for a SLEW of clients! And we’ve already seen the merging of social and traditional media. Great post!

  4. Vanessa Welter

    Very interesting. I am wondering what happened to trend #2 as I don’t see it on the list?

  5. Dorothy Crenshaw

    Thank you, Vanessa. Somehow the numeration changed, and #4 (consumer expectations) was left out. I’ve restored it.

  6. Mike Layton

    Excellent observations. I couldn’t agree more with #7. Automated metrics will never be a substitute for the human analysis of tailored metrics. In addition to being the most proficient in deciphering meaning and qualifying sentiment, human analysts are best positioned to identify and tag current industry events and campaigns, the evolution of attributes that impact reputation (the “why?” behind sentiment) and filtering out the “noise” so that metrics are based on pertinent content and not tainted by spam, ads and false hits.

    Great post, thank you.

  7. Dorothy Crenshaw

    Thanks for the observations, Mike. It seems that sometimes the “human element” can get short shrift. I like your point about the “why” also – at the end of the day, marketing should be about insights.

  8. Roshini

    Some terrific insight. Thanks for sharing the “what” as well as the “how” these things will happen. As a former TV news reporter, I appreciate your comment on quality in #3. Your encouragement to live in the reality of what is/will happen with all your tips should be studied by others hoping to succeed. Thanks for a great post.

  9. Dorothy Crenshaw

    I appreciate your comment. Some say #3 is too optimistic (since we like to complain about entry-level staffers not having good writing skills) but I think the upending of traditional media will help raise the quality of what PR pros produce. At least, I hope so.

  10. Mo Haarhoff

    It occurs to me that in a world where a teenager can state a clear opinion of a product or service on Mix-it, all control over PR can be lost. The same goes for Facebook, etc. And how can that be targeted or measured?

  11. Dorothy Crenshaw

    You’re right that it changes the game. particularly with tools like sidewiki coming on stream. But, if the product or service is a good value, and it’s treating its customers well, most users can see the comments in perspective. I don’t know that the good will crowd out the bad (since angry customers seem more motivated to sound off on social media platforms), but if the brand reputation is sound, and the gatekeepers are vigilant (i.e., responding to serious concerns/threats quickly and appropriately), negative WOM can be managed. At least, that’s been my experience.

  12. Ashley Lim

    Great post. I believe social media will shape up to be a highly dynamic and fluid market, yet quantifiable and measurable like never before. Due to content overload, brands, companies and consumers must know where to look for quality content and evolve ways to quickly digest and absorb data read. Looking forward to an exciting 2010!

    Ashley
    Social Media Consultant
    Brandtology (www.brandtology.com)
    Business and Brand Online Intelligence

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