PR and Marketing finds itself living “in interesting times.” 2015 found brands reevaluating their agency relationships in an unprecedented way, turning over partners looking for a better mix of nimble, efficient and integrated. That last part is the most interesting to me. It feels like the definition of integrated is moving to a business term vs. marketing one. One where marketing holistically weaves data, tactics and strategy together with bottom line expectations.
2016 in the Chinese Zodiac is the year of the Monkey, whose attributes include being “smart, quick witted, frank, optimistic, ambitious and adventurous.” Based on the conversations we’re having with existing clients and prospects, agencies will be required to embody all of these attributes and more. What’s that mean for practitioners?
Walking the Walk on Data
There’s been a lot of talk about analytics and data this year, which shows agencies are recognizing its importance. Moving forward using “data” will not be enough, just as writing a few tweets and blog posts didn’t mean implementing real strategies back in the early days of social. It’s going to require deeper analysis that informs strategy; relationships beyond marketing; and the ability to draw conclusions from unexpected findings. Social shares and UVMs won’t cut it anymore.
Mobile Crosses the Chasm
This is another area with a lot of noise but not as much actual execution. The mobile web is not coming, it’s here. Right now Apple owns the device, Google the browser and Facebook the app. Yet they are all fighting over mobile because that’s where everyone is. Consider how your content works on mobile, and how to make your visuals represent well with shorter, punchier writing.
Redefining Influencers and Account-based Marketing
Media continues to fragment, yet third party influence continues to hold tremendous value. Understanding who an influencer is will require nuanced data collection and analysis. This creates an opportunity for smart brands to bring new ambassadors into the fold based on their actual influence regarding topics and interests. Similarly, data-savvy businesses will push to marry insights with personalized communication at scale given the value personalized interactions hold in converting interest to dollars.
Measurement Continues to Evolve
Tools are getting smarter and faster, but there still is no one source of truth for measurement – and we shouldn’t expect it to magically arrive. That doesn’t mean that keeping up with marketing automation data flows, marrying that to Google Analytics data and incorporating SEO fluctuations to pivot messaging isn’t possible. How we leverage those elements to reflect in sales momentum will be expected of all marketing department. All this effort will continue to push Attribution models forward.
Visual Storytelling Accelerates
Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube – they all have or are rapidly advancing advertising components. Twitter continues to tinker and confuse the market with its advertising options and marketing value (see recent removal of share counts and the resounding outcry). Facebook is strong on mobile video, but the app isn’t a native visual experience. The move to mobile first computing means native visual apps have an opportunity to grab and keep attention. The corresponding call for better visuals, more video and better images + text experience will stretch practitioners into new disciplines and territories.
365 Day Event Marketing
Contrary to what I expected, the brands we work with doubled down on events in 2015 as a way to bring offline and online together. Events are becoming more localized, and those focused on specific topics and passions are succeeding. Brands recognize the power of these smaller, focused events and will look to mirror that experience online through social and content. PR’s role in helping brands extend the lifespan and value of their event investments in an integrated, 365 day strategy might not grab headlines – but will be a much bigger ask from clients as they evaluate participation in both industry and their own branded events.
What do all of these trends have in common? They are evolutions of things marketers are already talking about, considering or trying. That’s the good news: most likely you won’t be in a tear down, reboot mode in 2016. The challenge will be becoming faster, smarter and more efficient will become the rule, not the exception. How will you apply the tools and data you have to greater effect? How will you extend the value of your existing marketing mix? How will you tie your work intrinsically to the bottom line of the business? Here’s to an exciting 2016.
Senior Vice President