Mike Connell

The Big Question: What is the Future of PR?

By: Mike Connell | January 19, 2018 | 
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The Big Question: What is the Future of PR?What does the future of PR look like? Each year, there’s a difference-maker.

A tool or tactic that seems to be on everyone’s wish list.

Maybe it’s a new social channel, or perhaps Amazon will, ultimately, take over the world and change the game for everyone.

But we want to hear from you. What does 2018 have in store for communicators?

More specifically, what PR and marketing technology, activity, or innovation is going to have the most impact on our industry in 2018?

The Future of PR: The Basics

Amidst the throng of responses heralding AI, mobile, and voice search, there were some who were making sure to check their rearview mirror before moving into the fast lane, and speeding off to see what the future of PR holds.

From Jack Saville:

A big trend in PR/marketing in 2018 will be ‘going back to basics.’

An important part of any marketing strategy is testing out new ways to get in front your audience. But this can often be expensive, and ROI is far from guaranteed.

So 2018 will be the year that marketing teams start to assess which of their marketing channels are most effective, and doubling down on those channels to maximise profitability.

The Future of PR: Less is More

Paige Arnof-Fenn is on, well, the same page:

Here are the key trends I see in the new year:

Simplicity and convenience. As the world becomes crazier and technology gets smaller, faster and more complicated, people will find new ways to simplify their lives more than ever; shorter workouts, fewer ingredients, less stuff.

Less will be more in the new year.

More face to face interactions. Technology runs our lives more than ever, but it is relationships that drive business and commerce so people will find more ways to connect in person to build trust and strengthen connections.

Leverage Micro Influencers. On the less is more theme, a targeted small audience can be more powerful and effective than blanketing the masses, getting to the right people gives you the best multiplier effect and going viral is still the goal.

More mobile. The world is moving to mobile only, fewer people accessing the web on big screens so tailor your message and content accordingly.

More video and rich content. In a mobile-first world, you have less time to grab people.

Attention spans are shorter than ever so video will be used, even more, show don’t tell for maximum impact, rich content drives engagement

Content rules, quality over quantity. Peers command higher trust; original content is at a premium, consumers continue to trust content more than ads.

The Future of PR: PR and Marketing Working Together

While it’s not innovative or trending per se, more and more people are blurring the line between PR and marketing. The two camps aren’t at odds, but they aren’t simpatico either.

Anna Lebedeva feels like they both have a lot to learn from each other:

Any disruptive or innovative trend that will shake the marketing ground in 2018 will ensue from one simple idea—2018 is the year to build your brand.

A strong brand creates trust, higher user engagement and, therefore, greater success in marketing.

Building a strong brand starts with building a strong team—your entire product, marketing, sales teams should align their goals and efforts with each other.

Digital marketing is finally putting its human face on: it’s all been always about Google, search algorithms and so on.

But things have changed. And dramatically.

Now, the user leads the way, and users care about brand equity. Thus, building brand affinity is instrumental to your success.

The recent findings concluded that, yes, brand authority and strength play a key role in search engine optimization and digital marketing, and PR becomes ever more important.

Thus, what we see now is that the gap that was previously always in place between traditional and digital marketing is narrowing down. Both branches of marketing can learn a big deal from each other.

The biggest change that will be increasingly obvious in 2018 will come from the fact that there should be no separate approach to various aspects of marketing.

Is Fake News the Future of PR?

Is #fakenews the future?

In a word (and my opinion): no.

But the credibility of content came under fire more than ever this past year, so when we’re talking, and asking, about the future of PR, fake news comes into play.

From Matthew Jonas:

Because of the 2017 #fakenews movement, and the all-out assault on truth in media, today’s media landscape is more fractured than ever.

This is a good thing and a bad thing.

Good in the sense that in response to the push-back against legacy outlets, legitimate, non-traditional media outlets have emerged.

This provides PR pros with greater opportunity to pitch highly targeted publications, speaking directly to their client’s audience.

Bad because it opened the door for click-bait sensationalism and thinly-veiled manipulation.

Fortunately, Facebook is already attempting to regulate this, with an announcement in January that it would be changing its news feed algorithm to identify and flag fake news stories.

But, that alone isn’t going to serve as the media reckoning 2018 needs.

PR pros can help reestablish the public’s perception of trust and integrity in the media with their self-regulation. In turn, offering only tailored and authentic content from true thought leaders to legitimate, vetted media outlets.

The challenge for PR pros, of course, is in identifying and building relationships with these good news sources and avoiding the lingering fake news sources of 2017.

Hey Alexa: What does the Future of PR look like?

According to Kent Lewis, voice search will go hand-in-hand with SEO and digital marketing strategies.

Digital assistants will dramatically affect the way consumers search in 2018.

The 2017 holiday season will prime the pump with consumers purchasing large quantities of voice-assisted devices. These include Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple iPhones with Siri and Microsoft Cortana devices.

The Android, Windows and Apple device users will speak directly to their devices to conduct searches as well as manage their lives.

How consumers verbally communicate significantly varies from how individuals type out search queries.

Because of this variation in behavior, you will begin to see more long-tail keyword queries.

This will allow brands to create much more accurate keyword search optimization strategies since more granular data will be available around consumer behavior.

Voice search is also driving the need to for brands to optimize for Position 0 on Google.

Position 0 is a sentence, list or table answer to common questions asked by Google users that appear above the organic search results.

This coveted position will become increasingly competitive, even as Google heavily moderates results.

Lastly, brands will increasingly invest in custom voice skills for Amazon to better connect and engage consumers.

2018: The Rise of the Acronym

Nate Masterson sees a future in mobile SEO and AMP (accelerated mobile pages):

It’s all about mobile SEO and AMP pages in 2018.

As mobile traffic puts daylight between itself and desktop traffic, Google’s algorithms are going to favor mobile-friendly websites and pages.

Therefore, businesses need to re-focus their SEO efforts on optimizing their mobile sites, implementing AMP pages and becoming voice-search friendly.

No more influencer marketing. Although an influx of business in 2017 saw influencer marketing become one of the more exciting, up-and-coming platforms around, underwhelming conversions and a lack of cost-effectiveness have driven the influencer market downward.

Look for a continued correction in the influencer marketplace in 2018 as business narrows towards big budget brands and influencers for whom partnerships make sense.

Similarly, Ian Naylor points to PWAs as the Future of PR in 2018:

One of the biggest trends in mobile marketing for 2018 will be the adoption of a Progressive Web App (PWA) solution to match the rising consumer expectations of fast loading, mobile optimised experience.

These PWAs will replace many of the existing native apps out on the market due to the minimised friction involved in installation.

They’re lightweight, don’t use as much data and take up less space.

A variety of household names have taken note, with Asian retail giants Alibaba leading the way alongside the likes of Forbes Magazine and cosmetics brand Lancôme utilizing the technology.

One of the biggest noticeable statistics these brands among others has reported the increase in conversion rate after adopting a PWA.

I feel this will be enough to convince brands to follow suit and bring a mobile-first solution to the front of their to-do list in 2018.

Content and Customer Journey

It’s nice to hear that some PR and marketing professionals still feel that content, and the audience, play a role in the Future of PR.

From Marijana Kostelac:

Using content marketing beyond ranking in search engines and discoverability.

Instead, content is increasingly being used to tell a story of a company, to immerse the audience into the experience of transition from a problem to a solution (replacing listicles and regurgitated content that has overflown the Internet).

Content marketing is now becoming the entire story of a company and the way it changes lives of their audience. This applies both to B2B and B2C industries.

Creating tailored, personalized experiences and customer journeys through the use of marketing automation and advanced conversion rate optimization techniques.

Landing pages, apps, websites, emails.

They are all working to create a journey for a potential customer based on his/her behavior on all their devices. From the moment they interacted with the business, and leading them towards a purchase and advocacy for the brand.

The Future of PR?

This week’s answers were diverse, well-researched, and plentiful!

They were a pleasure to plow through.

Interestingly, this Big Q hammered home something very important: whatever the future of PR looks like, it’s not one thing.

Think of the innovation during the past 20 years. The “internet.” Social media. Smart devices.

Innovations abound. But it’s how we navigate and implement those innovations that will help the PR picture develop.

Ultimately, we comprise the past, present, and future of PR, marketing, and communications.

As long as we keep asking the big questions, I’m excited about the forthcoming answers.

If you are too, consider joining the PR Dream Team so we can work on it together!

Up Next: Where Do You Social?

As a professional communicator, as a content strategist… as a marketer, I’m on #allthesocialthings.

Most of them, anyway.

I try.

But I still have my personal preference.

Bonus points if you can guess.

Comment below, or ping me on the Free Slack channel (@mikeconnell).

And as these channels mature, and others pop up from time-to-time, we often have to choose. Where are we going to spend our time online?

The next Big Question asks:

What social network do you spend more time on, and why?

You can answer here, in our free Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

About Mike Connell


Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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