The year 2017 redefined the importance of investing in public relations. Between the political atmosphere, corporate gaffes, social media developments and a blazing hot media circuit, it was a year for the PR history books.
So, what did we learn? The team at Tech Image pulled together their top PR and social media predictions for the next year, pooling their collective knowledge of what agencies will need to consider to pull away from the pack. If you’re looking to capitalize on the opportunities outlined below, download the Digital Public Relations RFP Template here to make sure you’re set for the new year.
It’s All About the Automation by Joe Calderone, Sr. Digital Media Coordinator
As many platforms have implemented algorithms in years past to manage what users see, 2018 will bring further automation into how users engage with brands. Right now chatbots are in their infancy, but as Facebook specifically increases their machine learning, we’ll see the capabilities of these bots increase tenfold. Also in the automation field, we should see an increase in proximity marketing through social media platforms. Look for increased capabilities around how low-energy Bluetooth beacons interact with social media platforms as well.
The PR Best Agencies Will Need to Integrate with Sales and Marketing Platforms by Andy Ambrosius, Account Manager
As more and more agencies tout an expertise in all things “digital,” it’ll be time for them to put their money where their mouth is. PR has always been very loosely tied to sales, but as we become more digitally savvy, how do we prove that stories actually influence sales?
Tools like TrendKite recently launched technology that tracks web trends, showing when someone reads your article and then visits your website, and integrating with platforms like HubSpot. It’s also fairly easy to create custom landing pages during product launches that integrate with sales platforms like Salesforce. You just need to get creative and have the know-how to get it done.
Invest in Original Content by Mary Beth Nevulis, Content Manager
Just like Netflix, Amazon, HBO and Hulu now produce their own television shows and movies, in 2018, more brands will make a push toward creating original content, reflective of brand voice and without a heavy sales pitch behind it. Credible, informative original content on important industry topics gains more trust than advertising in many cases, creating real value for a target audience through meaningful storytelling, while still planting a seed that may grow into a purchase.
Close the Diversity Gap in PR Agencies by Dan O’Brien, President
Most PR agencies continue to fall short of diverse employment, which impedes their ability to hire the best talent and represent the constituents that are most important to clients.
In today’s supercharged political climate, where race is at the center of the debate, it’s important for PR agencies – in fact, all companies – to review their hiring criteria with regard to diversity. According to the 2016 U.S. Census, African Americans make up 13.3 percent of the population, but they are only represented in eight percent of PR agencies. But I’m defining diversity beyond simply race; we need to increase opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, LGBT, religion and socio-economic status.
Influencers Will Take a Front Seat by Dana Van Duerm, Media Relations Associate
The practice of using influencers to boost brand image will only continue to grow in 2018. However, before investing time and money, brands must realize how important it is to target the right influencers – and that includes doing research. Influencers should seamlessly align with a brand’s mission and values, so a relationship isn’t forced or portrayed poorly. Although we see big-name brands investing in their fair share of influencers to promote their message, products and beyond, B2B companies can leverage building relationships with niche, industry-specific bloggers, or key people who share common brand beliefs to build credibility.
Authenticity Will Be More Important Than Ever by Yvonne Gonzalez, Media Relations Coordinator
Countless studies have shown that people value a company that stays true to its brand standards and cares about its customers. Yet we live in a time where if a company is not fully transparent about a crisis or misstep to the public, this information can go viral via social and traditional media, resulting in the company losing its credibility and its audience’s trust. Companies need to push hard to stay authentic in their messaging and the services they provide, and PR professionals need to help keep them honest.
Expect Everything to Take On a Digital Component by Rachel Klein, Media Relations Associate
Today’s digital generation is redefining public relations. More and more, people expect digital, interactive and engaging content from brands, and we’ll begin to see this permeate public relations. Press releases, for example, are traditional, wordy and hard to look at. Future press releases will be more visual, embedding images, graphics or videos alongside text. Even campaigns are becoming more interactive. Many incorporate videos, infographics or landing pages that encourage a call to action. These elements make a brand more visually appealing and better allow consumers to connect with a brand.
PR Will Get Serious About Cybersecurity by Jeff More, Sr. Media Relations Coordinator
Every organization is a potential cyber attack target, and every year sees a new record in the ferocity of such attacks. Last year, DNS Registrar Dyn was hit with a DDoS attack driven by hijacked IoT devices with an attack strength of 1.2Tbps, disrupting a large portion of the internet. In May, the WannaCry ransomware attack infected nearly a quarter million computers in a single day, shutting down critical networks, including the U.K.’s National Health Service. More recently, credit reporting agency Equifax revealed the personal information it kept on nearly half the U.S. population had been stolen by cybercriminals.
We’re almost guaranteed to see another record-breaker in 2018. PR teams representing organizations that possess large amounts of personal customer data will need to get serious about having a response plan in place in the event of a cybersecurity crisis. Such plans will go beyond pre-drafted statements, and include systems of communication between cybersecurity, executive and comms teams to ensure that stakeholders and affected parties are promptly informed of the situation and adequate action is being taken.
Organizations taking responsible steps to protect their customer data can also look for PR opportunities around the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will take effect in May and affect all countries doing business with the EU. This presents an opportunity to put cybersecurity experts in the spotlight and highlight cybersecurity projects that bring organizations into compliance with the regulation.
Artificial Intelligence Will Reveal New Opportunities by Lydia Castillo, Digital Media Associate
AI and big data are the elephants in the room. Although there is a lot of talk about AI’s negative impacts, there is another side to the story.
As more AI is sewn into readership’s lives, it will give PR agencies quantifiable insight into their real interests. It will enable PR agencies to better process and understand data at a faster pace, and thus improve how they deliver their messages and what they choose to deliver. Agencies need to embrace AI and big data trends to experiment with new, strong stories that match data analysis.
#FakeNews by Katie O’Rourke, Account Coordinator
Considering all the events that took place in the mainstream media landscape in 2017, especially around the presidential election, in 2018, more news outlets will defend their research and sources. In 2017, The Wall Street Journal launched “The Face of Real News,” a campaign that features animated WSJ reporters telling the story of how they investigated their biggest stories, and other news outlets will soon follow their example in the race for credibility.
B2B Takes Center Stage by Harvey Henao, Account Manager
Consumer technology has long been the darling of tech PR. After all, who doesn’t like the flashiest new gadget or the latest home automation system? Consequently, tech PR has historically focused on reaching consumers. But lurking behind the curtain has always been business-to-business (B2B) communications. As more companies realize that what really moves the needle are enterprise customers, we will begin to see more dollars allocated toward B2B communications strategies. Marketers are projected to increase their public relations budgets over the next five years, according to a joint report from the Association of National Advertisers and the USC Center for Public Relations. With digital and social strategies becoming more prevalent and robust, marketers are realizing the power of smart PR strategies – for both consumers and B2B. 2018 will go down as the year B2B PR went from being an afterthought to the main driver of a company’s success.
Big Data Will Have a Big Impact by Matt Pera, Account Manager
The rise of Big Data has been fast and steep, and 2018 is almost sure to see that trend continue – and the next frontier is learning how to leverage that data with actionable strategies. In the world of digital PR, Big Data can provide predictive analytics and insights that are incredibly valuable for clients – such as which of their articles perform best and why, how readers find specific stories or press releases, or how share of media voice is distributed among competitors. Big Data affords a way to predict audience behavior and preferences that PR professionals would have never dreamed of as recently as five years ago. Welcome to the future.
CMOs Focus on ROI Will Continue to Grow by Michael Monahan, Vice President – Media Relations
Let’s face it. Public relations practitioners have always struggled to demonstrate the ROI on the marketing dollars invested in them. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we’re getting much, much better at it. We’re closing the gap between media relations efforts and driving web traffic and correlated lead generation. Public relations remains a top-of-funnel marketing activity, focused primarily on awareness. However, by leveraging web site analytics and digital public relations strategies, such as promoted posts across selected social networks to highly targeted audiences, we’re connecting the dots better today than we ever have as a profession. Better technology, better analytics and better digital public relations strategies will continue to improve the ways that public relations professionals document their results and help communicate the importance of an effective digital public relations program.