The public relations strand of marketing and communications has seen ups and downs in the last decade. With the continued growth of content marketing, public relations is fast becoming the shining star of the marketing mix again, albeit in a digital format, and with new channels navigating away from offline-only media.
So it’s important to have a strong content strategy in place for the forthcoming year, to position your company or brand as a thought leader, and speak to your customers and influencers where they are in the online marketplace.
Here are a few of the trends and changes taking place in public relations in 2016 and why you should get on board now to stay ahead of your competitors.
1. Digital and PR Strategies Fully Intersect
Public relations is arguably one of the most important elements of a successful business and marketing strategy for 2016 and this year we’ll see digital and PR strategy fully intersect. With content and digital marketing rapidly becoming the most important part of the marketing strategy, traditional marketing campaign and channel choices are being eclipsed.
PR industry experts like Rosemary Plorin say their field will continue to evolve as digital marketing solidifies its position, shifting communications with the media, stakeholders and consumers online. The good news is, this gives you greater control over your messaging.
Remember when you wrote a press release, and then had to get on the phone to pitch it in to your contacts in the hope that one of them would pick it up? Well, while there’s still a place for that for some of your stories, for the majority of your PR activity, you’re in charge of reaching your desired consumer and media audience. And they’re all online. Your message is still the same, it’s just your delivery and where you deliver it’s that’s different. Take to social media, follow the biggest influencers and journalists in your business area, and create and share your owned content to engage with both your customer and your influencers. And we’re not just talking a standard old school press release or a pointless social media post. Develop infographics, whitepapers, video content, podcasts, webinars — content that your followers want to read and redistribute. Not only will you engage, and establish your voice in your sector, your search engine rankings will thank you too.
2. PR Pros Are in High Demand
As we see industries like print journalism contract, the role of PR professionals is becoming more and more important within marketing. The smart PR professional understands the digital world and how to leverage their brand within it to increase brand visibility, credibility, messaging and sales. As digital continues to come of age, so do the industry professionals, who are becoming more sophisticated in their communications delivery, measurement, analytics and purpose. Public relations executives should oversee the entire content and social media marketing strategy and be able to identify and track campaign successes and areas for improvement like never before.
3. Growth in Thought Leadership a PR Priority
While managing c-suite public profiles isn’t a new phenomenon, the growth in thought leadership via digital channels and increased visibility of high-level executives will lead to increased public relations spend in the area. Thought leadership will forge a core element of the overall communications strategy, delivering consistent messaging from the outset, that trickles through the entire business and across all channels and content delivery. Smart businesses are setting aside bigger chunks of their budget now.
3. Demand for Social Audio and Visual Continues to Grow
Social media executed right has earned its stripes as one of the most credible set of channels available for brand communicators, yet creating the right content can be demanding. Millennials’ appetite for sharable social content isn’t slowing down, with older platforms like Facebook holding it’s own next to newer entrants like Snapchat and Pinterest. What is changing is the type of content that users engage best with. As people are on-the-go, often multitasking screen time with other activities, easily digestible content like infographics, podcasts, photography and video are increasingly popular and can deliver brand messaging in far sharper ways than traditional content.
Beware of a “one size fits all” strategy, however. Understanding your audience and target market, the social platforms they are using and engage best with, and being able to use analytics to identify successes and weak spots are imperative to social success.
5. Increased Regulation of Paid Content Makes Earned Media Even More Desirable
With the FTC increasing regulatory requirements for native advertising online, the need for promoted content to be labelled far more prominently may impact the credibility of the content, and how desirable the channel is within the marketing mix. With this in mind, it will become even more important for PR pros to create the right relationships with the media and key influencers, and to create the sort of credible content that can be shared throughout their networks. Earned content will be the goal for PRs in 2016 and employing the tactics above will be hugely beneficial in helping obtain it.