Our fast-paced media landscape in the brave new digital world has seen major upheaval in the role and scope of traditional PRs – how many times have we heard these clichés? Our team of experts have cut through the waffle and have put together a handy guide to what any PR needs to know heading into 2018. From the use of micro-influencers to what to do with big data and everything in between, here’s what you need to know about doing PR in 2018 – and doing it well.
The big (tech) questions
I think the biggest game-changer in 2018 will be whatever the regulators decide to do with big tech (Facebook and Google). It’s now a question of when – not if – and how. Issues like election interference, hate and the digital advertising duopoly haven’t been satisfactorily addressed, and governments are growing restless. 2017 saw a growing backlash, with even former Facebook founders joining the criticism. I believe 2018 will see the beginning of the end of the “free ride” and the introduction of tighter controls. This will have implications for publishers, consumers and the PR industry.
Content is king
As the media landscape has evolved over the past few years, brands have started investing more in their owned digital channels (websites and social media platforms) to build visibility for their target audiences. In 2018, creative content such as interactive videos and engaging posts will become even more crucial to establishing brand identity. More brands are starting to realise the power of the integrated, holistic communications model. Potential clients are now approaching agencies with requests for PR, social media and digital services in a single brief in response to the changing media landscape and consumer mindset, in order to work more efficiently in terms of both time and budget.
Thought leadership will go beyond executives
Over the last few years, brands have invested more in thought leadership. While corporates tend to think this is the exclusive terrain of CEOs and CMOs, we are currently seeing this change to thought leadership across the company services, not just at the top. As companies diversify and look to hire outside the mould, brands will be injected with a more diverse range of experiences, interests and knowledge bases.
Intelligent collaborations with influencers
The trend towards using influencers and KOLs for PR and advertising is swinging past a point of effectiveness. There was a Mumbrella article in October, titled The dysfunctional influencer bubble: No transparency and no authenticity, that I thought rang true about this particular point.
Something to leave behind in 2017: marketers forking out thousands to individuals in return for just a picture posted on Instagram and a badly written post. In 2018, we’ll (hopefully) see a transition to working with micro-influencers and much more careful placement, as well as clever utilisation of AI and data to find the right targets for impactful communication and the driving of results. Effective PR is built from strategic pitching and article placement so this should be seen in the use (manipulation) of social.
Balance between big data and surveys
While surveys are still a popular form of data gathering, people can often hide their true feelings when presented with questions. The utilisation of big data allows PRs more thorough insight into true consumer behaviour and thinking, with access to more sophisticated market insights before implementing a strategy through analysis. However, surveys are still needed as a supplement to generate more detailed insights and comments. Making customers feel their opinions are valued and respected is an increasing part of brand strategy, and this will only continue in 2018.
Paid vs Earned vs Owned
The line has blurred for PR as a stand-alone practice within a business – PR professionals have evolved to now play an essential role in the marketing process for brands. As the integrated communications model becomes more prominent, PR remains the only job function across marketing disciplines that understands the importance of storytelling to bridge the relationship between stakeholders and consumers.
PR professionals should now see the value and contribution that our work provides to the overall ROI of brand marketing campaigns. Given that many print media outlets have closed after struggling to keep up with the rise of digital platforms, the real challenge facing the PR industry is how we can embrace the full ecosystem of media channels and optimise owned, earned and paid content to influence target audiences during intentional and unintentional moments throughout the day. PRs will need to harness their storytelling abilities to be able to tailor the right messages to hit the right audiences when it matters.