The digital space changes quickly, and those who are unable to keep pace with the changes are overpowered by those who adapt to them soon enough. Each year brings with it new trends that redefine the way marketing and communication are done. PR is no different. Public relations and overall marketing communications have experienced a drastic change over the years. In other words, businesses need to adapt to the rapid changes and evolve in order to stay ahead.
Public relations (PR) is important for businesses as it promotes goodwill and communication between companies and consumers. PR nurtures customer relationships and encourages patrons to stay loyal to a brand. Companies, regardless of their size, must invest in PR to boost their credibility. In fact, the PR industry is growing massively – according to the 2016 Global Communications Report by Holmes Report, “the global PR agency sector will approach $20bn by 2020.”
Here are five PR trends to watch out for to be able to take advantage of PR opportunities and be on top of your game.
1. Thought Leadership Will Be Top-of-Mind
Digital and social media have changed the way people consume information. However, in order to reach the right people and create the necessary impact, brands need to tailor information so that it resonates perfectly with key audiences. This means the information they share must be valuable, useful and engaging in every way.
In order to attract attention towards their brand and get noticed, top executives in organizations need to position themselves as thought leaders. However, this is not easy. Thought leaders need to show their authority in a particular subject and provide people with valuable information that will solve their problems. Some ways to establish thought leadership are by publishing educational articles/blogs, giving interviews, and creating useful videos on a particular subject (related to the company or brand).
Take the example of EdTech company, Degreed that has been engaging in serious thought leadership marketing activities to establish a powerful reputation. Degreed is designed to track, evaluate and optimize the learning activities of companies and their employees to improve training and learning processes. It publishes in-depth and readable white papers (such as the ‘Learning Is The New Work: Four Ways to Make Learning a Strategic Advantage’) to educate their target audience. Degreed’s surveys are also worth taking a look at. Moreover, the company has helped people take a deeper look into the modern EdTech and workforce development landscape through free, downloadable and data-backed publications.
If you really want to stay on top of your customers’ minds, think about creating an impact in a way that will establish you as a thought leader in your niche.
2. Third-Party Research Teams Will Become More Crucial
Whether you are launching a new product or publishing a media report, doing research is a must. In a world where brands are constantly competing against each other, doing adequate research gives brands a yardstick to go by. The data and information help consumers organize their thoughts and challenge assumptions.
Hiring a third-party research team can work well as in-house teams are often biased in their opinions on products or services. People prefer unbiased research material and are more inclined to believe research or studies conducted by a university, a think-tank or a non-profit entity. Therefore, engaging a third-party organization for conducting market research boosts the chances of the success of the pitch.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to create a truly successful pitch:
- Tell a Story: It is often difficult for the common man to make sense of research findings, which is why businesses must use data/information to tell a story that will support their premise and build the buyer’s vision.
- Help Customers Relate: Instead of simply publishing the research material, address each stage of customers’ journey. Start with the challenges that your customers may be facing and illustrate what problems they should prioritize. Next, use hard-hitting data and facts to support your claim as to how your company can simplify their lives.
- Do Not Overemphasize Research: Do not over-engineer the research as this can make it look promotional. Remember, people prefer unbiased opinions. Use the research and studies to educate your customers and help them build their own vision.
3. Earned Media Will Take Centre Stage
Before deciding on where to spend their money, consumers perform in-depth research about companies and their offerings. Natural and organically-earned media is viewed as the most authentic source of information as the information comes from unbiased sources. For instance, a positive news story mentioning your brand or a great product review from a group of consumers will be considered authentic and help create a positive impact on potential consumers.
What you think about yourself is not as important as what your customers think about you. Earned media (backlinks from reputable sites, word of mouth, online reviews) is more trustworthy as it tells people what others think about your brand. Moreover, by earning media, you earn the authority and credibility to market your brand for free. Earned media also acts as your savior in times of crises. Having people speak about your brand positively in tough times can help your company regain its lost reputation and credibility.
A few ways in which you can gain attention on earned media are:
- Help Journalists Come up with Great Stories: Journalists and reporters are always looking for interesting stories. By providing them with something valuable, you can gain respect. For instance, you can sign up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and connect with a reporter for free.
- Write Reviews on Books and Podcasts: By helping authors and bloggers from your niche spread the word about their books and podcasts, you encourage them to return the favor.
- Be Proactive: People often try to connect with a company through social media comments and feedback. Make sure you proactively reach out to those trying to engage with you. Revert to your customers with grace and appreciation even if their reviews/feedback are not positive.
- Engage with Bloggers: Offer guest posts that will help bloggers in your niche offer value to their readers. Leave comments and share published content or engage in meaningful conversations.
Creating a positive image does not happen overnight, so put in as much effort as you can to get noticed by prospects and existing customers.
4. Influencer Marketing Will Rule the PR Industry
Influencer marketing is no longer a fad. It has become mainstream and this has helped PR professionals and brands create a strong foothold in their niche. Finding the right influencer in your niche helps you expand your reach and spread your message among the right people. Influencers come with a huge following and have the credibility and trust that make people believe almost everything they say. Statistics show that influencer marketing helps brands win more customers and offers better customer retention as well.
If you’re still wondering why you should include influencer marketing in your PR strategy, a recent study shows that 30 percent of consumers are more likely to spend money on products endorsed by non-celebrity bloggers than a mainstream celebrity. Take the example of Old Navy, an affordable clothing chain that roped in social media influencer, Meghan Rienks to promote their products by appearing in a series of promotional posts on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Reinks helps her fans with styling their outfits for different occasions and, in some videos, uses pieces from Old Navy. With a whopping 1.3 million Instagram followers and 2 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, she helped the brand gain the type of attention they needed.
Influencer endorsements work as most customers are wary of paid advertisements. In fact, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), “26 percent of desktop users and 15 percent of mobile consumers use blockers to remove ads from publishers’ websites.” So, you can create a positive impact on audiences without being intrusive by engaging with influencers.
By including influencer marketing into your PR strategy, you can get the required attention without being promotional. In order to ensure the success of your PR strategy, here is what you need to do:
- Identify people that your audience trusts the most (look at the reputation rather than the number of followers).
- Create a plan of action for approaching influencers and promoting your stories.
- Nurture your relationship with existing influencers.
- Take steps to become an influencer yourself.
5. Live Videos Will Grow Further
Live videos have been in the spotlight for the last few years and they’ll continue to grow in the coming years. With an increasing number of platforms equipped with the ability to stream live videos, they are going to be on top of the minds of PR professionals at least in the current year. Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope and Instagram Live are some platforms that allow professionals to live stream videos and reach their target audience.
Reports by Cisco predict that 75 percent of the world’s mobile traffic will be on video by 2020. Live events are captivating and engaging. So by leveraging live videos, PR professionals can attract instant attention. Live videos in the form of Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes views, celebrity takeovers, and product launches can be great for creating awareness about a brand, its products or services. For instance, Southwest Airlines used live videos to stream its operation control center during a snowstorm to allow people to see how hard they were working to keep the aircraft moving. The video got over 100,000 views, creating a positive impact on customers.
Customers want to interact with brands in real time and live videos offer the perfect opportunity to do so. Using live videos on social media to interact with people or live streaming the interview of an influencer can be a great way to engage target audiences. Stream live videos of events such as product launches as doing so can provide enriching experiences to the attendees and those unable to attend the event. However, you need to plan everything in advance, since you won’t have a chance to mend things if something goes wrong.
PR provides an easy way to connect with existing and potential customers and engage them in innovative ways. However, with changing customer needs and preferences, you need to keep tweaking your PR strategies. It is, therefore, important to stay abreast of the new trends that emerge every year. Staying on top of your game isn’t easy, but you can pave your way to success with a little preparation and effort.
PR is no more just about publishing press releases, but it has evolved drastically. PR professionals need to embrace new and innovative methods to get the message to the target audience. The five trends mentioned above provide some information in this regard to businesses of all sizes. Do use them to your advantage and overcome competition.
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