Gini Dietrich

PR Industry Trends Graded 2016

By: Gini Dietrich | November 29, 2016 | 

pr industry trends graded 2016It’s that time of year again: The time we all talk about the PR trends for the coming year.

Don’t worry! That blog post is soon coming from Spin Sucks.

But today is not the day.

Today I’d like to take a look back at last year’s PR trends and see how we did.

The 2016 PR Trends…How’d We Do?

On the eighth day of Christmas last year (that series also is coming very soon!), we looked at the eight PR trends we expected for 2016.

They were as follows:

  1. Better content marketing
  2. Content as product
  3. Livestreaming
  4. Private communities
  5. Paid amplification
  6. Virtual reality
  7. Semantic search
  8. Measurement, measurement, measurement

Let’s break each one down with comments and a grade.

Better Content Marketing

The 2017 Content Marketing research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs shows 85 percent of respondents say their content marketing is higher quality and more efficient.

To boot, 72 percent say their strategy has improved significantly and 53 percent say it has become a higher priority.

We are getting better and better at using content marketing to drive real business results.

PR trends grade: A

Content as Product

This is an interesting one, for sure.

I would say Spin Sucks is doing a great job at content as product.

We very successfully re-launched The Modern Blogging Masterclass this year and have big plans for more products in 2017.

That said, the industry as a whole, is lacking in this area.

Shonali Burke has Social PR, Michael Smart has The Inner Circle, and Ragan has online training galore.

But that’s about it.

I mean, from our perspective, that’s great because the competition is slim.

But the industry really needs to get on board with online training before yet another thing passes us by.

Grade for this PR trend: C-


I think we can all agree this PR trend has been huge in 2016.

Livestreaming is everywhere and lots and lots of PR pros are taking advantage.

That said, while Facebook seems to own this space, other competitors have quietly folded this year (cough, Blab, cough).

There are plenty of people who are using that rented space to make a quick buck and others who are using it effectively for business growth.

PR trends grade: A+

Private Communities

No one could have predicted where the U.S. presidential election would take us this year.


But what we did predict is how badly, after it all, people would need a private—and safe—space to be able to talk.

That’s why Slack is doing so well.

Not only does it provide a way to quickly connect with colleagues and peers, it provides a private space to share information, feelings, gossip, and more.

We think this trend is going to continue and, in fact, have something up our sleeves for you on that later this week.

Stay tuned!

PR trends grade: A+

Paid Amplification

I really thought we’d see more and more paid amplification this year through tools such as Outbrain and Madison Logic.

While it looks to be extremely effective for consumer organizations, it still hasn’t hit the B2B market.

At least not effectively.

I challenge PR pros to look at paid amplification for 2017 as a tool to help you reach new audiences.

PR trends grade: C

Virtual Reality

I would say we’re doing as best as we can with virtual reality in PR.

That said, it’s not really virtual reality as much as it is 360 degree video, which I kind of love.

But Tony Gnau, video producer and storyteller extraordinaire, disagrees.

He thinks we’ll leap frog over the virtual reality craze and go straight to augmented reality and artificial intelligence—as long as it tells a better story.

For the PR industry, I agree with him.

PR trends grade: B-

Semantic Search

Semantic search means you go deeper than the questions customers ask to create your content. You have begun to understand the psychology behind why they ask. And then you deliver a customized experience.

I would love to say every PR pro in the world is using semantic search in this way, but it doesn’t look to be the case.

As an industry, we’re still learning basic search engine optimization.

That said, from a Spin Sucks perspective, I’m totally down with this trend and have fully been capitalizing on it the past 60 days.

In January, I’ll show you what a big difference it has made and teach you how to use it in your own communications plans for next year.

Though the industry has not grasped it yet, I’ll give it a better grade simply because the opportunity still exists for us.

PR trends grade: A-


You can skip ahead and see I gave us a C for this PR trend.

And that makes me want to cry.

We have to do better.

We MUST do better.

There is no reason, on this earth, that the PR industry has not fully grasped real PR metrics.

We should be getting an A grade in this by now.

But nope.

We’re not there yet.

And, while I can’t tell you that through hard core research, I can tell you it’s true, just from our own work.

Clients tell us stories of former agencies that “measure” their effectiveness through one really great story.

When I speak, I ask how many people are truly measuring their efforts, and less than five percent raise their hands.

That said, it is on people’s radars and we collectively know we have to get better.

So you can bet this will be a PR trend we have for 2017.

PR trends grade: C

The Overall Grade

I’d say, at best, we got a solid B in our PR trend predictions for this year.

But many of these things are those which the industry has to do better on or we truly will get left behind.

As you plan for 2017, make sure you’re including semantic search and paid amplification and better content marketing and real measurement.

Those things won’t change, as far as trends go, and will immensely help you prove you are an investment and not an expense.

What do you think? Do you agree with the self-imposed grades?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • I think you were generous with the B grade.

    • You know how I got there? I added the percentages of each grade and divided by eight. 🙂

  • Those grades are a good motivation to do better in 2017.

  • I think you were mayyybe a little harsh on the measurement front, though you know I’m totally with you in how we feel & teach about measurement. Maybe a B-… because I do see and hear of more people speaking up about the “right” way to measure, or at least, asking about it.

    Otherwise – yup, spot on. And thank you for the shoutout, JG!

    • I do see more people speaking up, too, but they still aren’t incorporating it. I just spoke at INBOUND and I asked that audience who is measuring beyond vanity metrics. Of the 600 people in the room, only five people raised their hands. Five. So that’s an F grade, not a C.

      • Wow. That’s crushing.

        • I just had a meeting with the director of communications at a very large global company and she pretty much said the same thing. She shared her boss-imposed KPIs with me and they’re things such as “get one major placement per month” and “create a WOW marketing event.” This makes me very sad.

      • Samantha McCain

        I’m not surprised by this. Saddened, yes. But not surprised.

        Measurement is the last topic to be included in the statewide and regional conferences I’ve been to (which are comprised of communicators from much smaller markets). This grouping of industry pros aren’t going to Ragan conferences and are barely going to PRSA (because who has that kind of CE budget?)

        When I speak, I’ve asked the same question along with my favorite – “Who has heard of X?” just to gauge the room’s awareness of measurement-related topics.

        There’s a missing connector somewhere… and while I think we can do better at the higher education level, I think the expectations and integration of such at the business level are key. There are too many practitioners in the “My boss doesn’t care about/see value in this, why should I?” bucket.

        I have so many thoughts on this… but I’ll spare you guys the novel. 😉

  • Pete Salmon

    PR metrics wil come Gini. You experience time as an entrepreneur, which means your hours are minutes. Tranquilo. Tranquilo.

    • You know what? That’s a very fair point. I’m not a super patient person. I guess I can learn patience through all of this.