The changing face of PR: 10 trends on the agenda in 2016

29 Jan 2016

The business landscape is ever-changing, and with it the way we consume messages through the media and digital sphere. Is your PR effort meeting business objectives in these changing times? Kiri Sinclair, Founder and Managing Director of Sinclair, looks at the top trends on the PR agenda for 2016.

Integrated public relations
PR pros are tasked with shaping conversations and opinions. As communications channels converge, PRs should be looking to deliver powerful and impactful campaigns across all channels, ensuring consistent storytelling. Through integrated strategy, great PR can drive messaging and campaigns that bring together media, marketing, advertising, social media and digital to deliver more powerful results.

Content must have business impact
The days of content for content’s sake are over. The purpose of content is driving conversions; a clear call to action is needed. Impactful business content is built on sound strategy with clear business objectives that take into account market insights and audience behaviour. With PRs taking the reins to lead the online conversation and ever-increasing budgets allocated to social and digital, understanding online behaviour and responding to it quickly, and with meaning, is key to success.

Insightful storytelling
Storytelling needs to be meaningful to connect with an audience. Effective storytelling is achieved through an audience-centric approach that brings the brand experience to life in a way that creates an emotional response. Overly branded content rarely creates connection. Consumer behaviour and market insights gained through strong measurement, listening and analysis creates the most engaging content. It’s a conversation; listen and respond. Respect your audience, and they will respect you.

Read more: 6 things to remember when creating a powerful brand story

Rise of thought leadership
Who are your brand’s thought leaders? A focus on tactics that lead and shape conversation is not new, but it is certainly on the increase. Every brand has thought leaders – inspiring movers, shakers, innovators, and creators that make the brand unique. Brands can utilise their internal knowledge base to share insights and opinions directly with their audiences through owned and earned channels. Thought leadership is a tool that helps build reputation, authenticity, integrity and credibility. It give brands a human touch that helps people connect. PRs can nurture internal brand talent to be the thought leaders they are!

Earned influence over paid influence
PRs are traditionally in the arena of earned and owned rather than paid influence.  Earned influence allows a brand to build a purposeful relationship and create a conversation with their audience.  As consumers are becoming more educated about who is getting ‘paid to play’, the authenticity and credibility of influencers is being questioned. Gaining earned influence is more important than ever and goes back to the core of what a public relations pro does – build and nurture relationships, win a trusted audience, and earn the love!

Localised influencer marketing
Influencers – who are they, how do you connect with them and what do you do with them? Localised influence can be very powerful for brands. Influencers don’t have to be mass media-known socialites or celebrities. Instead, consider how a brand can work with talented individuals within local communities. One thing to keep in mind when working with influencers: always collaborate, never dictate!

Respond to the ‘always-on’ consumer
Real-time marketing is expected by the mobile-addicted, ‘always-on’ consumers.  Responding quickly is an expectation that PRs have to get used to. Arm the team with pre-approved responses that are aligned with brand personality so that you are ready to respond quickly to local hot topics across social media platforms.  Being responsive is an important brand character – being responsive and locally relevant is the winner.

Meaningful brand collaborations
Make them happen! People love to work together to create unique points of view. This goes for brands too. When brands collaborate, magic can happen that had no space to form before. Work with like-minded brands and personalities to create something surprising – it’s like a party that brings the brands’ audiences together in a meet-new-friends atmosphere. Sponsorships are best when seen as a collaborative partnership too, where brands build a purposeful relationship that audiences can understand and relate to, rather than just a business deal.

Oscar-winning video content
PRs are becoming screen writers and directors as content marketing turns to video. Winning videos are short, to the point, emotionally engaging – and all the while on-message and living the spirit of the brand. Live streaming is another trend gaining popularity – consider streaming events, seminars and interviews to allow instant interactions. New applications like Periscope and Facebook’s new “Live” option will allow brands the opportunity to engage on a new level.  If video is out of your budget, consider purpose-created visuals for impact such as infographics, creative photography, illustrations, and diagrams.

Read more: How to use video to tell your brand story

Outcomes over outputs
Conversion is now the KPI of public relations. PR must drive business objectives – with results being gaining the desired action (changed behavior, bums on seats, or fingers on the purchase button). The focus on measuring outputs such as number of media that attended an event, advertising value of media clippings or number of likes on Facebook are no longer the only measurement of our work.

Through integrated strategy, great PR can drive messaging and campaigns that bring together media, marketing, advertising, social media and digital to deliver more powerful results

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