(Updated: June 12, 2018)
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 master. Yet, they can help you get a jump start on the future. Read on to discover the key trends in public relations that can give you a head start.
Think of these trends like a tune-up for your car. Yeah, your car might run "okay" as-is, or maybe you’re even used to all of its little quirks. But after a tune-up, you probably notice that it has more umph 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.
What trends can help you to prepare for the future of public relations? Let’s look at 10 fast-growing trends that will help your entire PR strategy to adjust and run smoother.
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10 Public Relations Trends That Are Poised to Affect the Future of PR
1. Thought Leadership Becomes a Company-Wide Goal
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. Reputation Management Is Paramount
We've seen this trend growing in recent years, and it is not going anywhere. What is important to B2B customers has shifted from pricing and design to brand reputation. To stand out in today's B2B landscape, brands need a top-notch reputation.
When considering whether to choose your brand, customers in today's high-tech world will often check out what people say about you on social media and third party review sites. If they get a glowing review from a respected source, you've practically struck gold. On the other hand, if there are negative reviews and unanswered questions on social media, it is a major blow to your reputation.
How can you adapt to this trend? First, create a PR strategy with a special focus on online reputation management. When a negative review or a problem pops up -- as is normal for any company -- you can snuff it out before it blows out of proportion. This might mean designating someone on your team to respond to complaints and problems that come up across the internet.
Second, take every opportunity to build up your reputation. For instance, encourage happy customers to participate in case studies or to review your brand and products online. Every positive review, case study, or testimonial builds up your reputation to withstand any negative comments that may come along.
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 really mean the most influence? By no means!
One of the latest public relations trends 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) and the types of interactions the influencer has on social media.
4. An Overall Rise in PR Spending
According to a joint report from the Association of National Advertisers and the USC Center for Public Relations, spending on PR is poised to change. More specifically, marketers plan to increase internal staffing and overall spending on public relations over the next five years.
This is due to the evolution of PR over the past decade, and the increased importance it has had for marketers.
Think of some of the primary components of PR that make it so valuable to a business's growth. Digital communications, for one, has never been more important for business, and PR is at its very center.
Another big component of business growth is social media. You can't be in business today without a social media presence. PR provides the strategy and content to explode your social media presence.
5. The Development of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence and its potential influence on PR has created a lot of buzz in the past year -- and it's due to create a lot more in the years to come. But it's not all bad. Far from stealing our jobs, the development of AI has the power to help us to deliver a better product.
Paul Roetzer, founder of The Marketing AI Institute, and general guru of all things AI, opened up about the future of AI in a recent interview with Hubspot. When asked how marketers should view artificial intelligence and its potential effect on the industry, he noted, "From a marketer's perspective, I think first you just have to commit to learning, to not being overwhelmed by the whole idea of it...You just have to know what's possible. The potential of AI. And educate yourself on that basic information."
From measurement and analytics, to prediction, and even chatbots, AI already plays an active role on the PR scene. It does the little jobs, such as scheduling, creating, and promoting, so that PR professionals are free to work on more important issues, such as strategy and brand development.
So, instead of focusing on the potential pitfalls of this development, embrace it. Focus on ways that artificial intelligence can help you do your job better.
6. A Growing Reliance on Specialty PR Firms
While an internal staff of PR professionals can be valuable to a company, public relations has many moving parts. It is tough for internal staff to juggle every component of PR to an expert degree -- inevitably, something's going to give. This is why many companies turn to outside help for an expert touch in key areas of their PR.
Many boutique PR firms specialize in specific aspects of public relations, such as launch PR, reputation management, or thought leadership. If you’re having a particular problem in one of these areas, no doubt you will want a skilled authority calling the shots.
Don’t be shy about calling in extra help on occasion. Using adept professionals during key moments of your company’s development may just save you from PR disaster.
7. A Shift Toward Digital Storytelling & Data
When one survey asked about the future trends that will impact PR in the next five years, digital storytelling, social listening, and big data rose to the top of the list. How can you adapt your PR and marketing to this growing digital world?
Use digital storytelling to engage your audience. Let customers and prospects get to know the people behind your company, and what distinguishes you from your competitors. Share your passions and your struggles. This kind of narrative will endear you to prospects, and keep them engaged in your story.
Become a master at social listening with apps like Hootsuite and Mention, which help you keep on top of every conversation surrounding your brand and industry. Be the first to see negative conversations about your brand, and be ready to address problems before they get out of hand.
Leverage big data to adjust your content and strategy to reach more of your target audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics before your competitors have a chance to react.
8. Figuring Out Dark Social
Social media and influencer marketing have become an integral part of PR -- so much so that the industry has glommed onto tools like BuzzSumo and Hootsuite to aid in fully utilizing these channels. But now we are witnessing the subtle takeover of dark social -- social communication methods like text, email, and chat apps that are nearly impossible to monitor.
This emphasizes the need for companies to create, own, and manage their own digital property. Develop your own platform, where you can build a solid library of personal and valuable content. This will heighten your audience’s engagement, keep them coming back for more, and give you visible results.
While you may not be able to see how people interact in the realm of dark social, this will give you a clear picture of how they interact with your owned content.
9. Social Media Becomes Integral to Your Press Release Strategy
While this idea isn't a new concept in public relations, it is becoming much more prominent. PR professionals should look into new and exciting ways to use social media networks to boost the success of their public relations.
For example, the press release, done strategically, continues to be an effective PR tool -- but the ever-growing popularity of social media has added a new wrinkle. Using social media extends your reach and gives journalists a new avenue where they can discover you. Don't expect, however, that journalists will be bowled over by your tweeting a press release headline. That loses the exclusivity and new element media want. Instead, cultivate relationships with journalists far in advance of your release date. Then offer journalists via direct messages snippets of your news pre-release.
That said, what can help you to create a social-media-friendly press release? First, keep social media in mind when you create your release -- this means including social share buttons for easy sharing. Secondly, if you decide to promote your release with a blog post, optimize it for each social network you'll use (image size, tweetable sentences, etc.).
10. Quantitative vs Qualitative Measurement
There's an increasing 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 of the two routes, 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.
Public relations trends and B2B marketing trends will continue to evolve. Keep up with these trends in order to keep your PR engine running smoothly, and leave your competition huffing and puffing behind.
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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