PR and Marketing in 2015: The Road Ahead

As we kick off the new year, many of us will be looking to formulate new strategies, new ways of doing things or improving old ways. As businesses and brands, this is one of the key challenges facing us. What’s different, what’s new, what should we be doing?

At SHIFT, we look to our Reflex Framework for the answers.


What should you be doing differently in the weeks and months to come?


When marketers think about SEO, many think about random link building, spamming webmasters, stuffing words and phrases onto a page repeatedly. That SEO is dead and buried. The new SEO is earning links from credible sources, powered by great content and high engagement with your niche’s influencers.

The challenge in 2015 will be for you to build relationships first through effective engagement so that when you have something worth sharing, your preferred audiences will be receptive to you. The old way of “build it and they will link” is in rapid decline as content continues to flood the Internet at record-breaking paces. Today, the relationship comes first, engagement comes first, and the ask comes later.


Social media used to be a shiny object, a channel unto itself. Fred Wilson, noted VC, said quite aptly that social as we knew it is over. In the sense that it’s new, special, and different than how we communicate normally, he’s absolutely right. Social media is now part and parcel of ordinary communications. The challenges ahead lie in more effective, more powerful influencer engagement and management, including a broadening of our understanding of what influence means and who is influential.

One key concept for the coming year will be understanding communities of influence versus single, individual influencers. Those who master social media in the year to come will unlock the power of large group movements rather than aiming for single megaphones.


Journalism isn’t dead. Journalism just continues to evolve. While some well known, loved brands will likely see their demise in the year ahead, new challenger brands will take their places. The greatest challenge facing earned media is the continued explosion and fragmentation of channels. Public relations faces more avenues of influence than ever before, from messaging communities like Line, Kik, Viber, and WeChat to new content distribution channels like Plague, Super, and many others.

All of these new channels present challenges, but also opportunities: the savvy PR practitioner will focus on mastering a few of them and gaining influence in those communities to ensure great results.


Content marketing, the darling of 2014, continues to be the dominant form of marketing, but brands who don’t do it well will find even more rapidly diminishing returns. As channels like Facebook continue to push pay-to-play, strengthening the engagement and stickiness of your owned media channels will become a higher priority. Once you’ve got someone, don’t let them go, and bring them back often. Email marketing will continue to experience the renaissance it’s enjoyed over the last couple of years as social becomes noisier and noisier. Build and grow your list!

If you’re unable to be the absolute best at content creation in your niche, look to becoming the absolute best in curation. If neither are realistic possibilities, then look to outsource your owned media capabilities. The bar for quality will only continue to go up.


For brands with some advertising budget, the paid media world offers more choices and power than ever before. There are more options, more segmentations, and more capabilities available to brands. One of the keys to mastering this incredible buffet of paid media will be micro-segmentation of audiences. It’s absolutely essential, in order to maximize use of ad dollars, to target as finely as possible.

Advertising systems can now focus on behaviors, such as being able to display an ad only when a TV show is currently on the air, or on a specific brand of mobile device. Brands who succeed this year will be in front of only the right consumers and customers, not everyone.

Behind the Scenes

2015 will be the year when companies either fully embrace data-driven PR and marketing or fall far behind. More tools and methods are available to even the smallest businesses than ever before, at prices that are falling into affordability for even a solo practitioner. Master the tools or find a partner to help you do it, because the challenges listed above will be much more manageable if you understand the data behind them.

As a simple example, I ran some analysis on my personal Twitter account and SHIFT’s Twitter account to see what drove the behaviors I wanted – URL clicks and retweets. What I found was that the two audiences behaved very differently, even though they’re closely related. My personal account’s audience engages more when I reply and follow interesting new people:


SHIFT’s account engages more when they expand tweets with rich media content in them. If two accounts on the same platform with closely related audiences can behave differently, imagine how different audiences are across platforms, or across industries.

2015 must spell the end of “magic bullet” and “easy button” thinking if you want your marketing and communications efforts to succeed.

What do you see on the road ahead in 2015?

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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