The Evolving Nature of PR and The Risk of Being Left Behind


The below blog was written by Jack Granard, a Client Communications Assistant for 72Point


2017 oversaw the continued evolution of what it is to be a PR professional, as it became more influenced by digital elements, social media and marketing.

To the most observant companies and to those lagging behind, it would hold you in good stead to be aware of 2017’s developments for future plans. PR has dramatically changed in the past year and is constantly adapting to new pressures and technologies. At 72Point we constantly monitor these developments and innovate to stay on course as a market leader.


This feature highlights the 2017 trends you may have missed out on and the upcoming trends that need to be monitored in 2018.

It will discuss how content has become more visual, superseding tried and tested methods such as the traditional press release, whilst also bringing about the rise in the use of video, influencer and infographic content. Moreover, it will take note of the direction PR professionals feel the industry is going, before divulging on 2018’s hot topics.

The 2017 Digital Media Trends that you should have followed

1) The Fake News Blues: The Focus on Personal and More Reliable Content

In 2017 we saw PR take on the role of becoming a more reliable source for media outlets. It should not be forgotten that in 2017, ‘fake news’ was officially crowned  ‘Word of the Year’ by Collins Dictionary and that in 2018 Theresa May announced a unit to combat the spread of false information

Rising scepticism amongst consumers and greater diligence required from journalists as a consequence of ‘fake news’ acted as a catalyst for substantial focus on reputation management from content production to the individuals involved in its creation. Ultimately, this gave rise to third-party research being essential to the success of pitches.

2) More Visual Content Please!

Visual content was prominent in 2017 with the use of infographics, live video and videos being incorporated in more PR campaigns. The importance of having an early lead on this is strengthened by the 2017 report from Cisco which predicted that 75% of the world’s mobile traffic will be video by 2020.

Although, it should be noted that this was not an entirely surprising development, as in 2013, it was discovered that the average person watches 32 videos per month.

3) The Traditional Media Press Release Is Dead

The old method of writing press releases for the press has been overtaken by posting on a website in conjunction with emails and Tweets to customers and journalists. This more direct focus has streamlined the process and has created a faster turn around.

A good example of this is Manchester United’s recent announcement of new signing Alexis Sanchez which was utilised by a cinematic Twitter video.

4) The rise of the influencer

2017 marked the year of the social media influencer. This is supported by a recent survey that highlighted that youngsters would rather aspire to be social media superstars than musicians or actors.

Subsequently, media relations have advanced from merely pitching to media to actively working with these individuals, who are more accessible and willing to work in all forms of social media. It has directly linked PR to marketing and has influenced the methods of earning media to just paying for it.

5) A metrics overhaul

As 72Point’s Jack Peat highlighted in this year’s PRCA Annual Report, metrics are currently undergoing a sizeable overhaul to cater for new platforms and channels. The impetus for the PR industry is to turn “big” into “meaningful” if they are to deliver real value to their clients. In a world governed by big numbers, it is up to us to show how we have delivered actionable results rather than hiding behind misleadingly large figures.


2018: The PR Trends that you need to monitor

1) The Future Role of PR: The Statistics

Having an awareness of the latest trends in the media market will become a huge part of PR roles in the future.

A 2017 USC Annenberg Global Communications study which interviewed 875 PR executives and 101 marketers from around the world, found that digital storytelling is the biggest future PR trend with 88% citing it as important. Moreover, social listening ranked second (82%) followed by social purpose (71%) and Big Data (70%).

“87% of professionals believe the term “public relations” will not describe the work they do in five years, which exemplifies the initial point about being reactive.”

In terms of skills for future growth, strategic planning with 89% was voted as the most important, followed by written communications (86%), social media (84%), multimedia content development (82%), and verbal communications (80%). 87% of professionals believe the term “public relations” will not describe the work they do in five years, which exemplifies the initial point about being reactive. This is given further strength, where 60% of marketing executives believe PR and marketing will become dramatically more aligned in the near future.

Ultimately, these figures suggest the importance of being a well-rounded PR executive as the role requires many different facets to be successful. At 72Point, this is utilised by the different departments and individuals we have, who are specialists in their chosen fields but are also learning new elements everyday. It is essential to keep on adapting, or the PR professional today could become extinct in as soon as 5 years.

2) Dark Social Media

Data coverage and tracking in the PR industry has become a fundamental element of presentation and success for clients in identifying social influence and monitoring performance. However, what is impossible to track is dark social, which is defined as the communication through private messaging platforms, such as, text, email, Whatsapp, Messenger and Skype. The importance of tracking this is accentuated by the likes of Forbes stressing it.

We are increasingly more likely to share a link via dark social than on your Facebook profile. Consequently, PR firms are incapable of measuring this and are left confused as to where the rise in traffic to websites stems from. Significantly, standard web analytics are incapable of measuring this and key insights are lost.

Therefore, to start measuring dark social, one method could be to really emphasise the social sharing buttons on your site, whilst making sure all buttons have trackable links. Alternatively, if your direct track URLs are too long, it will be more unlikely to have been typed in their browser.

Overall, with this being a recent hot point, it is notable to keep your eyes peeled for new developments.

3) Artificial Intelligence

As stated throughout, data measurement has been very important to the PR role and AI has the potential to extend this further, through being utilised for basic research and media monitoring.

By utilising data scientists to predict future trends and investing in artificial intelligence to also combat this, it could pave the way for workload to be reduced for PR companies and to predict when and what businesses need to change.

However, one topic that has been heavily discussed is the usage of intelligent chatbots. These bots powered by artificial intelligence could evolve the way customer communication is utilised and may also be used to create a new fun concept to promote a brand. Further weight is given, as it was highlighted by Business Insider as “the biggest thing since the Iphone.”

Although, it should be noted this article was in 2016 and major headway hasn’t been made since. Therefore, this should be treated more as a prospect rather than something firms must keep their eye on.

4) Speech Recognition Technology

Whether you have seen the parody videos or have utilised the technology in Amazon Echo, Apple Siri or Google Home, it is largely agreeable that it has been a strong talking point recently.

Aside from that terrible joke, the speech recognition built into modern devices is quick, accurate and definitely the future. With the possibility of it being used more frequently it could bring about a process where ads and SEO are not relevant. This has been heavily advocated by Steve Waddington (Social Media Director at Ketchum) who believes it will “create another wave of internet disintermediation.” Whilst, it does have potential, it should be noted Steve has claimed this for the past 2 years.

However, with rising incomes and interest in becoming more technological, firms should try to incorporate this technology into their campaigns and find new ways to be different.

5) Personal Brand Reputation and Social Ethics

Is it obvious? Yes.

Does, more need to be done? Yes.

Social media has brought about exposure in new ways, such that, those from the most senior to individuals at the lower spectrum are all under scrutiny. However, this is also a positive thing as it allows  the opportunity for engagement with all these individuals through social media to gauge what this company is like. Previously, executives would target features in broadsheet papers but now optimising social networks is essential to harbouring not just brand reputation but a personal relationship with the consumer.

72Point has effectively created a space to combat this and has evolved through its recent brand revamp to better understand our organisation, our consumers and our goals. Now with increasing competition and shorter attention spans, only specialised websites which understand how to communicate effectively with all these new tools can succeed.

The PR industry is only likely to become more ethically focused with the Public Relations Communication Association’s (PRCA) expulsion of Bell Pottinger being a major point in 2017. Therefore, more awareness and positive messaging needs to be shown to restore trust.

Importantly, with rising scepticism, this personal relationship with consumers can not be perceived as socially good for the sake of it. This is exemplified by 2017’s more tragic campaign, such as Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi campaign, which despite intending to share a positive message was ridiculed. Ultimately, messages need to be better thought out, as consumers are more knowledgeable and are harder to impress than ever before.

Conclusion

This year will involve more competition and more technological use than ever before. At 72Point, we attempt to stay one step ahead and monitor these trends carefully. The PR world is a jungle and it has been shown to be ruthless in the past year. Therefore, more personal and genuine campaigns need to be implemented this year before it is too late.

72Point will be exhibiting at this year’s Prolific North Live at Event City on February 28th and March 1st. They will also be sponsoring the Digital & Content talks in the Keynote Theatre. You can register your attendance here.