The 21st century digital disruption is fast and ruthless. This, coupled with the social web and smartphone revolution, is rapidly supercharging the global communication space. Public Relations (PR) is an esteemed member of this space.
Traditionally, the PR professional’s role was pretty straightforward. He had to retain the confidence of journalists and other media stakeholders. Today, he, almost, has to be contortionist to deal effectively with the growing varying demands on his time, attention and skill.
The PR Professional must now not only deal with people in the traditional media, but also those in the new and emerging digital and sometimes social media. He must understand data, be comfortable with and around technology and also be exceptional at storytelling.
Here are four emerging trends in PR that every PR Professional must become conversant with:
- Data-Informed Campaigns: Data will continue to play a large role in guiding PR campaigns and measuring their impact. But we anticipate that it will be even more important in determining the value of PR in 2020. As we gain more access to accurate and immediate data, it will profoundly influence the way we use it in crafting and executing our campaigns as well as evaluating the results. The industry will use data to build more focused, targeted campaigns to reach a more specific audience. Thus, 2020 is expected to witness an interactive content explosion, where the focus would shift from content marketing to giving people what they want.
Summary: You’ll either speak the customer’s language or lose out.
- Increased Accuracy, Transparency, and Authenticity: People are growing increasingly wary of the information and content they consume and are starting to demand more accuracy, transparency, and authenticity from the stories brands tell. For that reason, honest and authentic content tends to gain the most traction.
To successfully build trust with the public, PR professionals will have to work with their clients to ensure the information they put out is not only honest but also accurately represents who they are and how they operate. In 2020, we predict that there will be an increased demand for quality stories and content that are relevant and authentic. Trust will play an even more important role in the success of a business and its relationship with the public.
Summary: PR is premised on truth, trust, and transparency…. Richard Edelman
- Social Media and Virality Will Remain an Important Tool: With the digital space still expanding, emphasis will be hinged on building the perfect relationship between brands/organisations and their customer base, using social media. Social media acts as a feedback mechanism for business organisations. It shows the sentiments and opinions of customers regarding the quality of services received. It is also used as an evaluation tool for measuring a product’s acceptability.
With the democratisation of publishing powered by the internet and the shift from communication to engagement, 2020 is expected to witness the rise of more citizen journalists, with strong storytelling prowess, coupled with large followership. This trend is expected to be on the continual rise with the emergence of a new job portfolio called “Influential/Brand Marketer”, as the year progresses, whose sole responsibility entails managing and influencing peoples’ opinions online, regarding the brand.
In other to remain relevant, successful and emerging brands must ensure a strong grip on their social media space. Emphasis is expected to shift from “ignore comments” to “comment and share” and successful brands who have control over this space are expected to remain relevant.
Summary: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” – Jeff Bezos
- Mainstream media will vanish, if they cannot prove their analytics: The rise of citizen journalism and brand publishing will bring an end to the oligarchy that is our current-day mainstream media. In 2020, your audiences will digest content (and news) from multiple sources through aggregators delivered to mobile devices when, where, and how they want it. Great content, regardless of its source, will rise to the top.
Summary: Content audit and monitoring is becoming increasingly an aspect of PR. This includes measuring engagement, social shares, website traffic, traffic source, branded search, bounce rate, etc. The inability to provide these by the mainstream media will gradually pave the way for the new media.
Conclusion: The paradigm shift in Public Relations is the power of storytelling. With brand handlers being the custodian of the image and future of the brand, the advent of the internet offers opportunities and threats for brands. A full grasp of these trends offers brand handlers a comparative advantage over the ever-changing communication space.
Daniel Anomietei, a Public Relations Professional writes from Lagos