Public relations (PR) has always played an important role in building a company’s brand or reputation. Combining strategic communication and management, its primary purpose is to help a brand position itself positively within its target audience and help build mutually beneficial relationships between two parties (e.g. seller-buyer, business-customer, provider-consumer).
While it continues to remain a crucial element for brand reputation management, especially now as we transition into the digital age where online reputation management services are in demand, the threat of having a smaller economy for businesses in 2016 have made PR to be incorporated and absorbed by advertising agencies. In essence, public relations as a profession and brand is being threatened not to be recognized. As an industry, PR will need to stand its ground.
While there are some threats to the industry this year, there are also great opportunities for PR if one is positioned properly. Crisis communication will be a big factor this year and doesn’t necessarily just involve external crises. It will primarily center on customers and products. Digital or online PR has grown exponentially in 2015 and it is expected to continue its upward trend this year. This will mean increased demand for online PR services that combine information, brand building and brand selling, on top of reputation management. Knowing how to effectively carry out a hybrid PR strategy, an integrated strategy that combines traditional and digital PR, will make a big difference on how one can score clients.
Clients expect PR to deliver a broader range of services within the digital environment this year and this is where your opportunities will be found. Consider this your guide to public relations in 2016:
I. Changing Role of Public Relations in 2016
As opportunities will be found in the digital environment this year, PR roles will greatly expand as well to adapt to the fast environment in the digital world. Clients now expect PR consultants to be more creative when crafting their campaigns, and expect them to be involved and proactive in strategy planning and building, not just its execution. As a result, PR professionals that have skills on digital media strategy and execution, research and planning (not just marketing) and campaign (metrics) analysis will be able to position themselves better this year.
Aside from the traditional roles PR already has, PR is expected to do the following in 2016:
1. Proactive Advisers on Campaign Strategy Planning
PR no longer is exclusive to campaign execution, clients now expect PR to be involved in campaign brainstorming and planning.
2. Creative and has New-Age Thinking
PR needs to immerse itself with new age media and platforms to be able to reach its client’s expectations. Even the way PR presentations are handled will change to involve new age media. Infographics, photo essays, charticles are perfect examples.
It’s a known fact that visual content drives maximum engagement with readers so hiring a creative designer in your team or learning a new skill that will allow you to design creative visual content is imperative.
3. Holistic Media Counseling
PR professionals need to understand the confluence of media, markets and policies of the industry their clients are in and keep a close watch on these to be able to advise clients. Anything that will impact a client’s business or industry needs to be on a PR professional’s radar.
4. Integrated Communication Strategies
Crafting PR campaigns now go beyond the traditional media. PR professionals should be able to have an idea that can be leveraged across all traditional (print, radio, TV) and digital (social media, website, and influencer engagement) platforms.
II. Factors Shaping Public Relations in 2016
Four factors will significantly play in shaping what public relations will be like this year. These are what leaders in the communications and marketing world see as important for public relations:
1. The Influence of Speed
The faster you get to your audience with the most impact, the better — that’s where PR campaigns should focus on. With a majority of the population consuming content on their mobile phones (over 50%), it is clear that having a mobile-ready campaign is needed. The other factor is how impactful it will be, given how audiences consume and are exposed to too much information every day. A campaign that delivers the most impact at the shortest speed will be the game changer.
In this light, digital videos specifically short-form videos will play a more significant role in overall brand strategy. Shareable videos that can be done in capable, integrated and mobile-ready platforms at lower costs – think Twitter, Vine and Periscope – will be one of the most effective and impactful tools for PR professionals this year.
2. A Shift on Measuring Campaign Effectiveness: Influencing Attitudes
A key factor that will shape campaign strategies and analysis is how ROI is measured. There is a shift in focus about how campaigns are measured from a purely behavioral perspective (efficiencies, clicks, etc.) to how the campaigns changed attitudes that are targeted for change.
Clients now base how successful a campaign is with how it has influenced attitudes and ultimately drove conversion or impact their bottom lines.
3. Being Conscious of Content Pollution
With how fast content is being churned out especially in the digital/online world, it is a misconception that for campaigns to be more effective and for a business to stay ahead of the game, the key is to simply churn out more content. The truth is PR strategists need to be mindful of becoming content polluters.
Being smart about how to tell the story always matters.
Andrew Bowins, Vice President, Corporate Reputation at Samsung Electronics America, said it best:
“In the frenzy to be brand publishers and leverage digital channels we may have forgotten the basic rules of PR: communicate with purpose; target your audiences and be relevant. Pull back the throttle a little, embrace data to understand your audience and shape content that actually stirs a desired reaction.”
4. Building a Team Based on Diversity and Innovation
PR, as an industry, needs to build great teams and the most innovative environment to be able to stand its ground among the many threats to PR this year. And just like any industry, PR needs to embrace diversity in the workplace.
Dorothy Jones, Chief Marketing Officer at Interstate Batteries has this to say about building great teams in these modern times:
“We must embrace diversity in the workplace, which we view as gender, ethnicity and experience. When we do this, we have millennials and boomers learning from each other, we improve our cultural relevance, we have more depth of experience and we’re a truly authentic team. This benefits our customers directly and it is the best environment for all of us to grow professionally and personally.”
Keeping these four factors in mind when planning out strategies and campaigns this year along with being mindful of what roles are expected of you will greatly affect how you do business as a PR professional this year.
III. 10 PR Trends for 2016
The PR industry has experienced dramatic evolution over the years and if we want to continue being relevant, we need to evolve and pay attention to upcoming trends in our practice. Here are some upcoming PR trends for the year according to industry experts:
1. One word: Mobile.
You have read this multiple times – everyone has gone mobile: reading, watching, listening, and buying through their mobile phones. For your campaign to be relevant, it needs to translate effectively (and beautifully) in mobile phones. Create mobile-friendly content and you are guaranteed of the chance for an effective campaign.
2. Place your content in the stream.
So you have mobile-friendly content, what’s next?
The mobile age translates to an explosion of apps, which means that you can’t expect consumers to visit your site just to get information. You need to get your content NOT only on your website, but also into the stream where people find their news – and even “hang out.” We are talking about social media. Find your targeted audience, identify their preferred social media network and place your content there.
3. Smart storytelling still matters; avoid content pollution.
Sometimes, PR and marketing forget that they are not really selling a product or service, they should be selling a brand. In other words, instead of selling, they need to be telling a story. Do not mistake your product for your story. Consumers need to be interested before they become engaged and for them to be interested, you need to lure them in with a great story.
Andrew Bowins, VP, corporate reputation, Samsung Electronics America, told Bob Pearson, President, chief innovation officer, W20 Group: “In the frenzy to be brand publishers and leverage digital channels we may have forgotten the basic rules of PR: communicate with purpose; target your audiences and be relevant. Pull back the throttle a little, embrace data to understand your audience and shape content that actually stirs a desired reaction.”
Quality over quantity. Know when more is less.
4. Content amplification is the key.
It’s not necessarily just churning out more content. . You have to know how to leverage and amplify your content to get more views.
When you start with a good story, amplification becomes easy. We are not just talking about social media. Think infographics, white papers, newsletters and even events.
5. Age of multimedia
Multimedia “everything” will be the standard in 2016. Press releases will now include pictures, infographics, GIFs, videos, social media links, etc. You can say goodbye to traditional three-pages long press releases and welcome a more visual and interesting representation of the same information. It is crucial that you have a creative team that can produce what you write visually in a short span of time.
6. Measure what matters
It is predicted that PR’s measurement tech bubble will burst – clicks, engagements, sentiments, shares, likes, retweets – and will be replaced by attitude change, influence reach and credibility. Campaigns will be measured by audience awareness, attitude shifts that can be felt in profit changes and reputation.
7. Thought leadership will become a growing PR priority.
Business leaders and companies need to position themselves as thought leaders in their industries before they can effectively lead change, increase brand loyalty and ultimately, drive more profit. This will be a growing PR need that companies will shell out budgets for.
8. True influence over follower numbers.
It will be more effective for campaigns to gain the attention of industry influencers (leaders) than to focus on getting strength in numbers. It’s ultimately better to have a smaller but higher-quality (loyal, engaged customers and influencers) following. Focus on developing a community. Influencers can help you reach out to your targeted audience better.
9. Online reputation management will be necessary.
Online PR will deal with a lot of areas in the digital world – social media, brand reputation, community management, etc. – and the need for a dedicated person or team to manage this aspect of PR will rise. Clients now realize that online PR is a consistent stream of campaigns and engagement, not just a one-shoot campaign.
10. Paid promotional and social ads will continue to rise.
Facebook has started doing sponsored ads, YouTube has positioned a better ad campaign strategy and now, visual social networks such as Pinterest and Instagram are following. This is an effective method to reach a better-targeted audience and clients are willing to pay for it.
IV. 10 Tips and Ideas for Successful PR this 2016
Before you help companies build their brands and reputations, you need to start with your own brand. Here are ten tips and ideas for a successful PR practice this 2016:
1. It’s still all about relationships. Even with all the additional channels to start, build and maintain relationships with, the key to good relationships hasn’t changed. It’s still about respect – understanding the needs of your partner/audience. Remember this when pursuing campaigns with your clients. You need to build a great relationship first with them before you can build relationships for them.
2. Your PR portfolio needs to be data-driven. Your practice needs to connect clearly to bottomline impact, or simply put – more profit or revenue for your clients. Hence, your portfolio needs to be driven by data that demonstrates this impact. Learn how to create trackable leads that can be served as proof of your campaign.
3. All the things you tell your client to do, do it first in your backyard. Go mobile. Tell your story. Go multi-channel. Amplify. Be visually creative.
4. Establish thought leadership. You need to establish your role in the PR industry as a leader to be credible. This translates to clients as seeing you as someone they can trust. This will lead to more (and better) clients.
5. Increase visibility. Don’t forget to still be visible in traditional media – retain or rebuild relationships with journalists, try to get invited to speaking events, contribute to journals. Establish your presence online by having a mobile-friendly site, engaging followers in social media and amplifying whatever quality content you put out online.
6. Sponsor an event. Attaching your name or company to a benefit or charity could help attract potential clients, not to mention help other people too. This will also be a great avenue for you to network and build relationships.
7. Don’t just reach out to influencers – reach out to vertical media. Reach out to bloggers, industry publications and fellow professionals and exchange ideas, articles, contributions.
8. Create an online news area for your practice on your website. This will be the area where you post news and press releases about your company. Have your “press kit” that holds company information and few case studies/portfolios about the work you have done that can be downloadable on the site as well. You can learn more about what to include in this article.
9. Evaluate post-campaign. Ask yourself these questions:
- Did we meet or exceed client objectives?
- Did we outperform ourselves or our competitors?
- Did we deliver the key message?
- Was the coverage prominent? Was it seen?
- Did we reach our target audience?
- How has the landscape changed?
- What was the effect on awareness, understanding or behavior?
- What worked or didn’t work?
- How do we improve?
This is an important method to amp up your value as it drives you to continuously challenge and better yourself.
10. Network like you mean it. Aside from building relationships, networking means you are building relationships with the right people. Be sure to dedicate time for this so you can identify and get to know the people you want to serve and will also be beneficial for your practice. This will pay off over time to keep the business going your way.
One of the difficulties in proving PR value is rooted in the fact that this is a subjective measurement. Value varies widely from company to company. For this reason, it is important to know the roles expected by clients of you as dictated by the latest trends in the industry. Staying ahead of the game dictates that you evolve with the changing times and expand your skill set too.
Public relations is a continuously evolving industry and digital marketing is playing a big role in shaping its future. Brands and consumers have realized the key to public relations is personalization and with social media’s help, developing a personalized/targeted PR approach is easier to gain brand loyalty, amp up brand reputation and increase profits.