23 Oct 2013

Six 2014 Public Relations (PR) Trends to Watch

I’m astonished at the number of people asking about the hot trends for 2014 already. It’s not even Halloween yet! Bad enough that the Christmas decor is up in a bunch of places. That said, we’re here to serve, so here’s our shot at what looks good for 2014 in the world of PR and marketing. Let’s consult the crystal ball!

Cathy Allen

1. Traditional media accelerates its decline. Some media brands will figure out that their new role in the media landscape is not provider of information, but curator and qualifier. A few brands have already figured this out, that what they dispense is not information, but credibility. The brands that aren’t strong enough to do this or smart enough to adapt to the new landscape will continue to fall by the wayside. Ad dollars will decline in proportion to the decline of a brand’s perceived strength.

On the flip side of this trend, brand journalism and brand media will increase proportionally as journalists go in-house at forward-thinking brands. Brands are waking up and realizing that an audience-centric mindset is what will power their advertising and marketing efforts, so expect much more brand journalism in the year to come.

2. At the leading edge, analytics will improve to the point where we can make fairly good, repeatable, sound estimates of the ROI of X, where X is PR, marketing, social media, or the channel/tactic of your choice. Those brands and businesses who crack the code will have an ever firmer grasp of what’s working and what’s not. The code is pretty simple (but not easy): get accessibility and visibility into all of your data sources.

Companies and brands that have silos between different departments, different agencies, different functions will face ever stiffer challenges from competitors who are smarter with their data and the insights they get from it.

3. The Internet of Things gets more real. 2013 was a banner year for the Internet of Things, of the crossover of digital into real life, from Google Glass to 3D printing. That said, it’s still very much early adopters playing with the devices, a bit like podcasting in 2006. 2014 and 2015 will see more adoption of the Internet of Things as costs decrease and accessibility increases.

For businesses, this means getting more creative and having tools that enable greater creativity in what you can produce, from physical promotional items to augmented reality that’s more broadly accessible. It also enables more of what Jeremiah Owyang calls the collaborative economy; as manufacturing technology is democratized, more people can make more things directly, skipping corporate production for small batches and custom designs. Systems like Google Glass and wearable technology further democratize media and create even more media fragmentation, which means PR professionals will be dealing with ever more distributed audiences and influencers.

4. PR’s role finishes transforming into media generation. As traditional media either evolves or dies, the traditional media relations-only model of PR will evolve or die with it. Public relations work will transform more into earned, owned, and paid media generation, and PR professionals will find themselves increasingly doing work that transcends the traditionally rigid boundaries of earned, owned, or paid media.

PR professionals should expect to see themselves blogging, doing content creation and content marketing, managing paid media campaigns, managing social media and mobile media channels, working with media buys and display advertising, working extensively with brand journalists, helping inform search marketing, and generally going where the audiences are. Most important, PR professionals will need to focus on having an audience, having conversations with audiences, and having that audience be portable among different forms of media.

5. The backlash against content marketing will get louder as more companies make really bad content and decide that the tactic doesn’t work (rather than realize they’re bad at the tactic). Content marketing as a discipline will be viewed as social media is today (essential but filled with snake oil salesmen) and SEO was in the past (essential but filled with snake oil salesmen).

Despite the backlash, competent PR and marketing professionals who can execute the tactic well will thrive, and will be in high demand, but the bar will continue to get higher and higher for what constitutes great content. All of the brand journalists operating in-house will need ever-larger amounts of great content.

6. The talent race will be tougher than ever. As we’ve been detailing in recent posts, creative skills and analytics skills, due to the trends above, will be in greater demand than ever, with a talent pool that’s smaller than ever (especially on the creative side).

Companies will be faced with rafts of unqualified people who have erased social media expert from their resumes and scratched content marketing expert in its place, while the demands for great people will be stronger than ever. If you’re great at what you do in marketing and PR, the sky’s the limit. (and we’re always hiring great people)

This blog post is also now available as a slide show:

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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