Earlier this year we published a blog post highlighting the three PR mega-trends we predicted would shape our industry in 2017. Now that we’re almost halfway through the year (what?!), we wanted to take a look back at how these trends have impacted our efforts so far.
According to Google News, there were 72 million news stories written in 2016 – over 200k stories a day. We predicted the abundance of content would only increase in 2017, largely because of the continued improvement artificial learning intelligence which allows machines to create and publish content almost indistinguishable those written by humans.
In the first three months of 2017, news stories were published at an even more impressive rate than last. Q1 2016 saw 18 million articles go live, while Q1 2017 saw about 18.4 million articles published to news outlets across the country. There has been no indication that the influx of content will slow down anytime soon either, as you can see from the trend line in the figure below. Our prediction has so far held true, the era of machine-generated content is here.
Outlets as reputable and well-known as The Associated Press and Fox News are now relying on automation technologies like Wordsmith, developed by Automated Insights, to ensure they have bandwidth to cover as much as possible in today’s 24/7 news cycles. These services leverage numerical data and customized templates to craft earnings reports and recaps of sporting events, buying human journalists more time to spend on the more complicated, hard-hitting storylines.
How does it affect our day to day? The oversaturation of content completely changes our media relations strategy. We need not only to secure coverage, but then make sure it’s seen (before tons more content is released). That means we can’t rely on the earned media hit alone, but must also distribute it to our target audience through paid and owned channels.
It’s no secret that there is a limit to how much content people can consume – most have a limited amount of free time to scan and digest the news each day. Many publications have recognized this deficient and taken steps to encourage people to read their articles. One example of this is how many websites have added estimated reading times to their feeds – a tried and true tactic for increasingly the probability someone will click on the piece.
Still, with an almost never ending number of articles being published, it is no longer feasible for PR professionals to try and reach everyone en masse through media relations. This is where the owned audience, our second mega-trend, comes into play. Unlike the publication example above, it’s increasingly apparent that quality matters more than quantity in terms of audiences – especially as the frequency with which outlets are publishing content continues to increase year over year.
To optimize efforts in today’s supersaturated landscape, marketing and public relations professionals need to take ownership of their audiences and identify the specific group of people with whom company goals and messages will resonate most closely. Securing a piece of coverage in a publication with a UVM in the millions will not have as significant of an impact as securing a piece of coverage in a publication with a UVM in the thousands if the outlet with the larger reach is publishing 5x more articles per day, which is often the case.
Dark and Social Influence
As predicted, influencer marketing is still very much a driver of public relations and marketing efforts. According to a Linqia survey, most companies spent between $25,000 – $50,000 per influencer marketing program in 2016, and respondents reported they expect that budget will double to $50,000 – $100,000 per program in 2017.
We hit the nail on the head when we noted influencer marketing is currently in a bubble, and an unsustainable one at that. Over the past few years, companies have paid influencers these huge sums of money to increase brand awareness, trust and/or engagement, without any tangible way to qualify their deliverables. We’ve already seen an evolution of influencer qualifying this year, as clients are requesting more tangible measurements for finding, scoring and analyzing the success of these partnerships. More and more we are advising clients about our best practices for effective influencer marketing – including considering a pay for performance model in partnerships.
Dark social refers to content that is shared peer-to-peer through channels other than social media –over emails, chat services and messaging platforms including text messaging. Last year, RadiumOne released a white paper that found dark social accounts for 84% of all social shares, a percentage that is likely to have increased in 2017 as more and more messaging apps and services are launched.
Unfortunately, there are still almost no advertising or analytics available for tracking this dark social share information. As a result, companies who want to reach these dark social communities must rely heavily on influencers – offering PR and marketing professionals another opportunity to improve influencer management and analytics capabilities even further in the year to come.
The Future is Now
The public relations industry as we know it is changing. There’s no question about it. With this change, however, comes a huge opportunity for communications professionals like us to reinvent ourselves and our career paths. Machines taking over menial, repetitive tasks free up time for us to focus on the bigger picture, to be more creative and to have more flexibility to look ahead to the next mega-trend.