The PR industry has evolved significantly in the last few years, with old school traditionalist professionals seeing a barely recognisable discipline from when they first started out in the '90s and early 2000s.
PR has never been more challenging and exciting. Here we identify a few of the key trends that have shaped, and will continue to shape, our industry for the better – plus some tips for coming out on top:
Transparency in a time of fake news
Smoke and mirrors has never been a more dangerous game to play within the current climate of intense scrutiny and scepticism regarding fake news. Don’t shy away from product recalls, managerial changes, alterations to product specifications and the like. Prioritise absolute transparency and your audiences will thank and possibly even reward you with their loyalty for it.
From celebrity ambassadors to social media influencers
The days of Kim Kardashian being paid millions of dollars for a single product endorsement are slowly grinding to a halt. Smart brands are realising that multiple social media influencers and even micro-influencers (credible, vetted contributors to or commentators on a post) can achieve far greater reach, with far more relevance to the brand and far more effective targeting of audiences – for far less investment. The general public now view celebrity-driven campaigns with healthy doses of cynicism and scrutiny regarding their relevance to the brand. A PR strategy worth its weight will most likely have a carefully thought out influencer strategy at its core.
With audiences predominantly consuming news via mobile devices it is imperative for brands to prioritise multimedia visual storytelling in the form of video, photography, interactive infographics, GIFs, illustration, graphics, music, voice and other audio when communicating their key messages. In a crowded share of voice, consumers baulk at spending longer than a few seconds to absorb information, so the most succinct and impactful format is key.
Real-time news jacking
As communications professionals we have all watched with envy as a satirical meme explodes across the internet and gathers enough momentum to reach every corner of the globe in minutes, sometimes even seconds. Brands can capitalise in real-time on these momentous opportunities if they are willing to be brave, respond instantaneously and put their faith in the twirling tornado of content controlled and disseminated by the general public. The most crucial rule is to only jump on board memes that have a defendable level of relevance to your brand. If done right, the results are unimaginable.
Increased blurring of lines between paid, owned and earned
Social media has significantly obscured the traditional definitions of paid, owned and earned media. Silos between the worlds of journalism, social media, editorial and advertising are becoming more and more merged and immersive. Earned media is the result of paid media (Facebook users sharing Facebook ads, for example); owned content is the result of earned content; paid media leverages earned media content (Icon Agency’s recent ad campaign for SkyBus featuring spontaneous Trip Advisor reviews is a good example) and so on. An integrated approach is crucial to maximizing reach, relevance, resonance and results.
PR for SEO
With the emphasis firmly on generating a digital brand profile nowadays, the role of PR has actually evolved into a critical support function for Search Engine Optimisation. If you want your brand to be heard above the digital noise then your PR strategy should focus on producing online content of quality and relevance over quantity. Key search terms, meaning and semantic or conversational text in all PR collateral is key.
It doesn’t take a PR or Marketing expert to see via their own social media newsfeeds that humour dominates the very essence of the biggest memes. Whether it’s the tone of the image, video, GIF or tagline, even traditionally “serious”, heavy-duty corporate brands are now adopting a more tongue-in-cheek approach to their content in order to maximize their shareability and gain digital share-of-voice in an overwhelmingly crowded space.
Interactive and immersive content
When fighting for visibility in a world drowning in digital information-overload, seeking brand awareness is no longer enough. Brands must prioritise audience engagement, immersion and interaction. Campaign reach should no longer be about quantity but rather quality to achieve any resonance whatsoever with your target audience. Carry this ethos through to all content, from interactive infographics, maps and microsites, to online quizzes, interactive product reviews with click through functionalities and virtual reality tours.
The impact of wearable technology
While this is yet to fully take-off in terms of impacting the majority of PR strategies, it should nevertheless not be underestimated to have real impact in the not-so-distant future. With the wearable technology market dramatically expanding every second by developers around the world, marketing and communications content will increasingly need to become location specific, time specific, and even specific to the wearer’s current activity. To give just one example, FMCG brands will start to target supermarket shoppers in real-time with tailored content based on demographics. But the possibilities for any brand utilising this emerging technology will start to become endless.
The impact of VR technology
Virtual Reality won’t continue to remain in the realms of an expensive, experiential gimmick forever. Brands at the forefront of embracing this mind-expanding technology will be remembered as agenda setters for all the right reasons. And it goes far beyond the more obvious confines of VR tours from property developers, supermarkets and retailers or infrastructure projects by government departments. The PR industry predicts the advent of VR media kits, VR b-rolls and even VR news (at this very minute The New York Times is creating VR content to enable subscribers to “experience” the news) from every and any brand imaginable. Open your mind to VR and the sky could be the limit… “virtually.”
Content Distribution Skills
It is increasingly essential for any PR professional or agency worth their salt in the new era of integrated digital, social and traditional PR and content marketing to now include proficient skills in content distribution. A robust communications strategy will incorporate techniques for finding everything from content niches, new social communities and influencers, and paid and unpaid distribution tactics to emerging Google trends that will impact content sharing.
Social Listening Tools
Once again driven by the predominance of news consumed digitally in an overwhelmingly crowded share of online voice, brands must focus their measurement on conversations and communities versus traditionally conceived notions of media coverage or ‘clippings’. Social media listening tools are predicted to take over from more traditional media monitoring.
We would love to discuss adapting your brand, marketing and creative communications strategies to meet any of these ever-evolving trends. Please call Joanne Painter, Managing Director of Icon Agency on (03) 9642 4107 or email [email protected]