As we wind down 2017, our gaze inevitably turns to the horizon. What’s ahead for the public relations profession amidst a world of disruption? In this series, we’ll examine some of the major trends we see ahead and how PR practitioners of all stripes should prepare.
The Big Picture
If there’s one theme that unifies all the trends, it’s acceleration. The world as a whole is moving faster than ever. Disruption happens to industries measured in weeks and months rather than years or epochs.
Thanks to technologies like cloud computing, ubiquitous Internet access, mobile devices, and machine learning, the pace of change will only increase. Disruption of industry stalwarts is inevitable. Companies at their apogee today may find themselves at their perigee within months.
With that, let’s look quickly at the trends we’ll be investigating in this series.
The 2018 PR Mega-Trends
Part 1: Earned Media
Press Releases Continue Their Slow Demise
The venerable press release continues its decline into irrelevancy. While companies may be publishing more of these than ever, their impact continues to lessen every year.
Hyper-Segmentation of News Means Hyper-Segmentation of PR
Society and social media have created hyper-focused segmentation of the audience. PR must adapt to realize that no one audience exists any longer; brands and clients instead address dozens or hundreds of micro-audiences in their communications.
Reputation Is Brand
The nature of a perpetually-online world means radical transparency, which in turn means disastrous reputational damage is a tap of a video button on a smartphone away.
Part 2: Owned Media
PR Professionals Blindsided by Rich Media
Media monitoring has traditionally been focused on digesting and interpreting text. As the dominant form of communication becomes rich – meaning audio and video – the PR profession is at serious risk of missing key trends if tools and vendors fail to adapt.
Content Avalanche Keeps Growing Bigger
Content shock is about to exponentially explode. How will PR adapt to a world in which 10 times the content created today will be created in the near future?
Part 3: Paid Media
More Paywalls Go Up
Traditional news media is struggling to survive, hemorrhaging cash. To compensate, more walls will go up, making media less visible to PR professionals and their audiences. Soon advertising may be the only way to reach some select audiences.
AI-Powered Personalization of Advertising
Advertising has been quick to adopt artificial intelligence, but we’ve only touched the tip of a massive iceberg. As AI technology improves, reaching individuals at scale will be possible, and PR practitioners must adapt their integrated strategies to maximize success.
Part 4: Search Marketing
Advanced PR Practitioners Embrace AI Fully
The most advanced PR practitioners will embrace AI technologies and incorporate them into day-to-day work in order to survive and succeed. Laggards will quickly reach obsolescence.
SEO and PR Merge In Some Firms
The difference between SEO and PR continues to blur as more SEO practitioners realize the need for human storytelling, and more PR practitioners quantify their work in SEO terms. This trend will only accelerate as search engines become ever more intelligent.
Part 5: Social Media
Influencer Marketing Train Keeps Picking Up Speed
Influencer marketing shows no sign of diminishment despite questionable ROI. Influencer marketing methods and measurement will improve radically as new, advanced measurement methodologies such as neural network-powered attribution become more available. These tools will help PR practitioners more quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.
Branded Organic Social Media Becomes Meaningless
Continuing the ongoing trend, brands’ reach on major social networks will decline further until brands will be posting to no one. Services like Facebook are already pay-to-play for the majority of brands, and these networks show no inclination to help brands who don’t pay.
The Future Will Be Here Sooner Than We Think
If 2017 was any indication, we will face these trends sooner rather than later. Stay tuned as we dig into each of these trends and provide guidance on how to successfully navigate them.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology