Few months into the New Year, public relations professionals are busy brainstorming new strategies and plans for clients and new businesses. However, no plan should be deployed without taking into account some crucial changes that are taking place in the social media and technology space. Here are my five trend predictions for 2015 that will impact the industry.
PR has always incorporated data in its scope of work. This year, however, data will play a critical role in the success of our campaigns. For an industry that still battles the perception of being all fluff, to be driven by data is a much-needed change. There are some who feel that an over-dependence on data analytics will kill creativity. But I think there is a lot of useful data there and if we continue to run our business on intuition we will fail in today’s world. Also, clients will demand more accountability from PR agencies as with the availability of data everything can be measured. Hence, PR professionals, who have learned to use data, will excel. But those who continue to rely on follower counts, media hits, reach, and other such frivolous metrics will suffer.
I am not saying the press release will be dead, but it has to evolve in order to remain relevant. People are so busy these days that they don’t have time for even a 30-second commercial. PR agencies will have to make their content more visual by using videos, photographs and infographics. According to a PR News/PR Newswire survey, 51% of professional communicators said their video budget will increase in 2015. Also, there will be a stress on educational video content. Blatant advertising won’t work as the audience is far more informed these days.
Security will continue to be an issue.
A series of hacks in 2014 – from Sony to Snapchat to iCloud to Heartbleed - served as a grim reminder of how dangerous a connected world is for our business. Hence, security will be a primary concern as social media will expose our clients on various digital channels. PR agencies will have to be prepared to protect their clients’ interests and reputation from such external threats. This will require heightened vigilance as social media is a necessary evil. Also, with campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge showing how brand awareness can be increased with the involvement of the crowd, attempts will be made to replicate the success. The flip side of this phenomenon will be increased exposure of our clients to external threats.
Change your social media strategy
Digital channels like Instagram will take centre stage with the demand for visual story telling gaining momentum. Instagram has reached 300 million users and launched the Instagram for Business blog, which clearly indicates parent company Facebook’s desire for increase engagement. PR agencies will also have rethink their clients’ Facebook strategy as organic reach for business pages has hit a low. While larger companies have the means to support consistent native advertising, small businesses don’t. The year will witness a small business exodus on Facebook. Agencies will need to find alternatives like Pinterest and LinkedIn for clients with low PR budgets. Also, like last year and the year before that, 2015 will be the year of mobile. The number of smartphone users will continue to grow. Plan accordingly.
Greater integration will be the order of the day. PR is now on equal footing with other marketing disciplines. The days of PR versus advertising versus marketing versus digital are over. Digital and PR, paid, owned and earned media will all come together to create a 360-degree integrated approach. The focus will be on synergistic effect and bringing optimal results. Also, for effective public affairs the integration of all of the tools of modern communications is of utmost importance. Agencies that use the full array of modern communications tools—earned media, targeted digital advertising, social media engagement and content - will succeed in influencing policy outcomes in 2015. Although PA advice necessarily has to focus on the local situation, the impact travels globally. So, agencies will need to communicate consistently at all levels, domestic, regional, global.
These were my predictions for this year. PR is an instinctive business. So, follow your instincts and modify these trends to suit your business needs.
The author is CEO, Avian Media.