In today’s digital era, public relations relies strongly on digital media. This shift over the last decade has visibly altered the course of the communications industry. Here’s an inside look at the current state of the PR industry, trends, and the future scope.
Current state of public relations
The growth of influencer marketing and native content, has slightly minimized the focus on PR activities. Meanwhile, Gartner reports a continuing and consistent shift of offline media spending to digital advertising.
On the other hand, the number of businesses establishing their in-house PR department continues to grow. According to the Association of National Advertisers survey, there is a 62% chance that external PR agencies might become defunct due to this development. Presently, 21% of PR agencies directly report to in-house marketing departments.
PR trends and future outlook
It is worth evaluating the role of PR agencies in the immediate and long-term future. A study by the Center for Public Relations at USC Annenberg suggests that earned media (or free media, which refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts), will decline in the next five years. Meanwhile, agency revenue based on paid or shared media will increase.
There will also be an aggressive increase in content marketing. As a result, there will come a time when consumers will be unable to easily distinguish between earned and paid media, leading to an explosive growth of branded content, social advertising, content amplification and influencer relations.
Here’s a look at some PR trends worth watching:
1. Data amplification
Over the last decade, the PR industry has become data oriented. As the Internet evolved and opened unlimited business channels, it became feasible to collect huge datasets and analyze them for strategizing public relations tactics. Getting to know the target audience and using the data for marketing benefit through customized content is the stronghold of the PR industry.
2. Expanding skill sets
Public relations professionals are no longer limited to pitching media outlets. A successful public relations professional often parlays many skills such as event planning, writing, content marketing and social media. This indicates a more cohesive and blurred-lines approach to paid and earned media.
3. Death of the press release
Once upon a time the easiest and most effective way to manage a standard public relations campaign was to write and distribute press releases to targeted journalists and pitch your story for publishing.
However, the mainstay of publishing press releases online has dwindled since Google reduced the importance of this factor. In fact, publishing the same press release on multiple channels can earn you content duplication penalties.
4. Thought leadership
Today’s top executives and founders write and publish thought leadership pieces in popular magazines and social media outlets. Thought leadership is a form of personal branding, and most media outlets accept guest contributor submissions.
Thought leadership content helps to build trust with your audience and gain visibility. Each published piece can be leveraged and pushed further down the content marketing pipeline by sharing it via email newsletters, videos, blog posts, and infographics.
5. Content amplification
As important it is to create engaging content, it’s equally important to market it well. This is where amplified content leaves its mark. Public relations agency will be tasked to amplify paid and earned media through additional channels (e.g., social platforms).
LinkedIn sponsored updates, Twitter promoted tweets, Facebook promoted posts, and Google AdWords are some of the recommended methods for content amplification. Enlisting industry influencers to share content also lends authenticity and credibility.
6. Personalized outreach
Public relations has gone from mass to personal outreach. Sending out mass emails doesn’t work; in fact, it’s considered spam. Instead, it is necessary to build relationships with media liaisons (i.e., editors, producers, journalists, reporters, etc.) to pitch smarter and land a story. Tools like Prospect.io and Saleshandy.com help to identify media prospects and send personalized emails that won’t easily be marked as trash.
7. Video is here to stay
Every minute 300 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube alone. An average viewer watches around 32 videos per month. And with a sound content creation strategy and content marketing plan, it is possible to increase the number of videos watched per viewer.
Online video marketing, when cone correctly, is relatable and generates higher engagement value compared to other forms of content. This gives PR professionals more reason to include videos in their campaigns. For example, Dollar Shave Club used video to market their offering in a unique way. Also, the ROI from video is easily measurable through various analytics tools on platforms like YouTube which offers a robust analytics dashboard.
8. Mixed reality
The lines between real and unreal aren’t clear anymore. Experiential marketing is becoming a popular way to create immersive brand experiences.
For example, last year “Malaysians . . . had the opportunity to experience a VR ride in conjunction with the season premiere of globally popular horror TV series, The Walking Dead Season 7. . . The campaign was themed The Riding Dead and passengers riding to their destinations in a special Grab Car were placed at the front and center of a walker breakout via a 360 virtual reality (VR) video shot in the streets of Klang Valley, simulating scenes from The Walking Dead.”
The immersive brand experience attracted connected millennials. It’s a great example of how leading companies ainvest in new and unique tech experiences.
Ultimately, a great public relations campaign is all about storytelling, and these trends will contribute to the creation of all-inclusive brand experiences in the future.
There is a need for seasoned and professional PR agencies who are well equipped to handle and adopt the changes.
This article has been edited.
Sonal Patil is a research analyst at Market.Biz. She is keen to handle and use market data for developing marketing strategies. Apart from this, she loves to travel and explore distinct places. Besides all this, you will find me all time reading, learning new things and owing to the interest I’m a technology enthusiast. Connect with @prudour on Twitter.