In a rapidly evolving industry, PR professionals are sometimes faced with bewildering changes affecting the very core of what they do. The internet and social media are changing the way our society thinks and behaves, which has brought challenges, but also tremendous opportunities to embrace new ways of building relationships with clients and consumers.
Here are the top seven international PR trends to watch according to Nicola Nel, National MD and Lauren Volmink, Director at Atmosphere Communications.
1. PR has become idea-led and channel agnostic
What does this mean? Creative ideas to amplify brands and products will come first, followed by the choice of channel to drive reputation and create talkability, and not the other way round. So we won’t be thinking ‘social media’ or ‘media release’ first, we’ll be brainstorming ideas, and only then decide on the channels and tools likely to create the most impact.
2. Collaboration with partners will be a must
Our great ideas will not just be executed in the PR space – campaigns are increasingly an integrated effort between various disciplines, including advertising, PR, digital and social media. Even for clients with relatively small budgets, collaboration with partner agencies will be essential to execute and amplify creative ideas.
3. The consumer voice will become stronger
Consumers are using social media tools as either brand advocates or detractors, and their networks are sometimes even larger than those of the media that PR professionals traditionally target. This means we need to become social listeners. We cannot ignore consumers as critical influencers – we need to monitor this ongoing conversation to identify and engage with them.
4. Content marketing will continue its rapid rise
Authentic, quality content is paramount. Storytelling will be multichannel and multimedia, and will target audiences by lifestyle rather than an obvious product sell. Content packaged in highly engaging ways, that is useful and that clearly demonstrates true value to the consumer, will win. It needs to tap into a genuine human truth to resonate.
5. PR is no longer just about earned media
In fact, the earned media space is shrinking. The advent of social media and increasing use of digital platforms has led to brands looking to PR professionals
to assist them in developing their own platforms. We are also moving into the paid space more and more, with trends such as native advertising, which is gaining momentum in South Africa. In addition, employed media is becoming more prevalent, where employees and their networks are being used as powerful channels for brands and companies.
6. Effective measurement can no longer be ignored
Being able to show the true value of publicity and other PR activity is more important than ever. AVE just won’t cut it any more. With increasing collaboration between agencies, PR practitioners have to be able to clearly demonstrate the value of their efforts – both as independent contributors, but also as part of integrated campaign projects.
7. There will be fewer ‘pure’ industry players
Globally, we are already starting to see agency start-ups include skills sets from more than one discipline in one team, such as designers and digital strategists. In South Africa, collaboration with partner agencies is still the norm, but in future we may well see the traditional PR agency expanding to include all the skills we need to convert our ‘big ideas’ into spectacular results for our clients.