(Updated: October 25, 2019)
It's easy to keep on top of cultural trends that beam out at us from all media. But how about public relations trends that can help your growth and development? These can be less accessible and tougher to navigate. Yet, they can get you a jump start on the future. Read on to discover the key PR trends for 2020 that can give you a head start.
Think of these trends like a tune-up for your car. Yeah, your car might run OK as-is, or maybe you’re even used to all of its little quirks. But after a good ol' tune-up, you probably notice that it has more oomph and runs a lot smoother, not to mention you'll be better prepared for future trips.
Paying attention and adjusting to PR and B2B marketing trends can help you in much the same way.
But what exactly are the PR trends you need to know for the coming year? For that we've scoured the most recent studies, including an exciting report from Episerver, along with our own observations, to deliver you our picks for the top 10 PR trends for 2020.
Let’s look at 10 fast-growing trends that will help your entire PR strategy to adjust and run smoother for 2020.
10 Public Relations Trends You Need to Know for 2020
1. Thought Leadership is for Everyone
In the past, the emphasis was on C-suite-level thought leadership -- after all, the names representing the company should be known as industry experts. But the idea of thought leadership has trickled down, and we see more lower-level employees reaching out for thought leadership.
A company-wide approach to thought leadership has multiple benefits. First, it helps your brand to target a wider, more diverse audience and distribute more content. Second, if an executive thought leader within your company leaves, he or she won’t exit with all your company’s thought leadership power.
Help those in all levels of your company to grow and nurture their own personal brand. Encourage them to write thought leadership content and create social media profiles that show off their development as a thought leader.
2. A Lean Toward Self Service
A new study from Episerver shows that businesses want a more streamlined buying process -- self service, if you will. More specifically, when asked in what ways B2B companies could improve, respondents chose the following areas:
- Pricing on website (44%)
- Self-serve functionality (41%)
- Easy scheduling with a salesperson (37%)
If you've been using a "Contact Us for Pricing" model on your website, it may be time to ditch it. For the past few years, we've seen a shift away from a full-service experience -- and now it has become imperative for brands to follow suit. The bottom line is that customers want to see a price before they make a decision -- otherwise, they will likely go elsewhere.
Instead, implement a transparent pricing model on your site and make it easy for customers to choose a package that suits their business needs.
If you find that your process is too complicated to go full-on self serve, then you will want to at least make the scheduling process as easy as possible. Make it a direct jump from your pricing page to your scheduling page and don't overload it with a mountain of questions.
3. Micro-Influencers Gain Ground
Influencer marketing is an incredible strategy to add to your marketing plan. In today's fast-paced and advertisement-saturated world, using a third party voice to promote your message is a powerful way to reach new audiences.
Yet, many make the mistake of turning to influencers with the largest audience -- but does the largest audience translate to the most influence? By no means.
One of the latest PR trends for 2020 is the use of micro-influencers -- those with audiences under 15,000 followers. Why are these effective? Because evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience. This translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice.
While the size of an audience is an important factor in choosing a marketing influencer, don't let it be the only factor. You should also look at engagement levels (comments, likes, and shares), what kind of person the influencer is and the types of interactions the influencer has on social media. You want someone whose content, personality and audience are a good fit for your brand -- not just someone who has the best numbers.
4. Email is a Top Communication Tool
According to one report from Episerver, 43% of respondents preferred to be contacted by a B2B business through email -- and 54% said that they wished to be contacted more frequently via email for other business communications. Phone calls, on the other hand, were the least chosen means of communication.
Add to this that when asked what technology businesses were most likely to invest in, 49% chose an email marketing system.
It is clear that emails are an effective means of communication -- and businesses need to follow this trend by investing in an effective email marketing system. Such a system can vastly improve email marketing success.
5. Artificial Intelligence Moves Forward
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a trend that continues to gain momentum year after year -- with new developments making it ever more important within public relations and marketing.
AI has been used in a number of areas. For starters, it has been used to speed up mundane tasks so that you can focus on other, less automated areas of work. From email automation to social media, AI has made PR and marketing a lot easier in the past few years.
But AI doesn't stop there. It has also proven its worth in more complex areas involving problem solving. 81% of brands plan to use AI technology to make better business decisions in the coming years. Another 81% plan to use it for product research and development.
But there is a growing potential for worry in the field of AI. As uncovered by the Episerver report, 60% of respondents plan to replace human workers with AI by the year 2022. Before we panic about this, however, let's remind ourselves that this is by no means certain. Plus, many professionals can combat this trend now by making themselves more valuable -- perhaps by learning the skills to work more closely with AI technology.
All things considered, AI is an exciting development within PR and marketing. Instead of worrying about potential pitfalls, focus on ways that artificial intelligence can help you do your job better.
6. Need for a Better Digital Experience
The report from Episerver found that 84% of B2B decision makers say that increasing digital expectations from their customers or partners is their top external threat.
B2B customers want and need a painless and uncomplicated online experience from their brands. But 54% of B2B companies say that they are held back by disjointed technology systems. Are you part of this group that would like to provide a better online experience but are held back?
The same report from Episerver found that 50% of B2B companies say that they lack funding from senior management to execute digital transformation projects.
So this becomes a two-prong issue for many B2B businesses. First, in order to secure funding, you need to convince senior management of the necessity for digital transformation and show how it will impact the bottom line. Then, you need to secure and implement the right technology and software that will elevate your online experience.
7. Mainstream Media Loses Ground
While the push for decades was always to get media coverage in a tier 1 publication like The New York Times, such goals are taking a back seat. As people realize that they can get more results from smaller media outlets (including trade publications and blogs) with less effort, focuses are shifting in the realm of media.
People are already starting to digest media from an array of sources that are different from 15 or 20 years ago. And with the rise in self-publishing, many are realizing that there are other options besides mainstream media.
How will this affect your strategy? Instead of focusing all of your efforts on attaining media coverage from big-name media outlets, take a step back. Do your research into other, smaller outlets. Where does your audience spend most of their time? What blogs do they read? Whom do they follow on social media? This can help guide you to a more effective media outreach strategy.
8. Push Toward Better Content
Among the biggest B2B PR trends for 2020 is the need for better content. In this push, we've seen some PR agencies hire content strategists to help them create better content for brand audiences.
First question is why is this so important? Audiences have developed an appetite for content -- they have questions and concerns and they regularly look for content that helps them to deal with those. While there is content out there, not all of it is of the best quality. Instead of just content for content sake, audiences are demanding a high level of quality, with more transparency and authenticity.
How should brands create such content? Analyze the needs of your audience. What questions do they ask? What are they worried about within the industry? What trends should they know about and how should they react to those trends? Create content that answers these questions and concerns.
Pay attention to the quality of the content as well. Just pushing out content will not satisfy your audience. Do your research to ensure that your content is accurate and as helpful as possible. Create in-depth content that looks at all sides of your audience's question.
Such content will build trust with brands and will prove important for both PR and marketing professionals in the coming years.
9. Personalization is Key
When asked what new website features or functionality companies were planning to adopt, personalization was at the very top, with 36%. Personalization has definitely been in the mix of trends for the past few years -- and it shows, with only 6% of brands saying that they do not use any sort of personalization in their strategy.
The good news is that there are ever-growing ways in which brands can utilize personalization in their strategy. From product recommendations, to email and live chat conversations, there are a number of ways to personalize your strategy to each customer.
And artificial intelligence (AI) plays a big role in this, as 82% of B2Bs agree that they want to implement this technology for personalization. Such technology offers exciting opportunities that were unthinkable just a few years ago -- for example, AI is poised to be able to deliver personalized web pages for each visitor to a website, discreetly making each visitor feel at home.
The results of this personalization trend? For those that use it, it was reported that 91% of customers felt that the B2B company cared about their experience or that they received a better experience because of personalization. We see how much this feature elevates a customer's experience, making it a must-have for any B2B business.
10. More Qualitative Measurement
Historically, there has always been a push towards quantitative PR measurement. After all, people find comfort in seeing specific numbers of page views, likes, and interactions, where they can measure their PR success. But how do you measure something like a growth in brand trust or awareness? This is where PR professionals need to toe the line between quantitative and qualitative measurement.
While quantitative might be the easier to show, it does not give an accurate or full-scale picture of public relations ROI. While the details of PR measurement are still being determined, we are seeing more of a shift toward qualitative measurement.
This doesn’t mean that we are throwing tangible numbers and percentages out the window. We are, however, working on ways to use those numbers in order to see the full panoramic picture of how PR impacts a company’s growth.
PR has made great strides in measurement with tools like AirPR and TrendKite. It has even begun to develop advanced analytics to monitor such tools as podcasts, video marketing, and micro-influencer marketing programs. We anticipate that in the future PR measurement will be baked into every campaign, providing fresh insight on virtually every aspect of public relations and marketing.
2020 is poised to be an exciting year in PR -- and we are confident that these B2B PR trends for 2020 have the potential to put you in the center of the action!
If you're interested in boosting your PR strategy even more, then we want to help! Check out our Storypress Technique, which outlines the key tactics that we've personally used to take companies from anonymity to 740 million impressions!
Let us know what trends you've noticed in the comments below.
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