PR in 2016: The Same, but Different

digital PR

Various articles on PR trends in 2016 reveal that the hallmarks of great PR – relationships and content – are at least as relevant as they used to be, but need to reflect the digital backdrop.

January always sees a slew of “year ahead” predictions and, public relations being alive to the possibilities of calendar marketing, trends in the PR industry are among the most prevalent of these predictions. Trawling through these stories, it’s reassuring to see that PR’s core competencies – relationships and content – come up time and time again. What’s radically different is how these competencies must be applied in the digital environment in which we all now operate.

Relationship Status:  “It’s Complicated”

The digital world has definitely made the relationship map a lot more complex than it used to be. Most journalists – the Times’ Henry Winter being a prime example – are making aggressive use of Twitter and other platforms to gain attention for themselves and, ultimately, for the content they publish via their paid titles. Keeping track of and interacting with these online profiles demands more of PR pros than ever before.

The tools we use have also clearly changed. We are now far less dependent upon the humble press release to get our clients’ messages across – John Hall’s article for Forbes even went so far as to say that the press release is “no more.”  I’m sure most PRs professionals will still be issuing press releases this year, but it’s true to say that knowing the interests and tastes of contacts – and finding different ways to engage them on topics we know they care about – has never been more important.

Overcoming Information Overload

The old maxim that “content is king” – is more true now than it has ever been. Yet the irony of this is that consumers are drowning in the very content we laud. Cutting through this “white noise” again relies on relationships, but those with our clients’ customers. Creating content that gets liked, retweeted, or even (if we are talking Holy Grail) goes viral implies a contract between the content creator and its intended recipient. And this is an effort at which public relations professionals have traditionally excelled.

But creating that great content is no longer enough. We need to work harder to get that content out there. There’s a lot of noise about content amplification, and agencies are increasingly making use of content amplification services such as Outbrain. But this is only part of the story. Content should generate a train of outputs that merchandises great ideas across multiple platforms.

The Difference Is Clear

The rod that the digital world has made for the back of PR is accountability (long the Achilles heel of the industry). A world where site visitors can vote on the value of any piece of content with the click of a mouse is a world of total transparency, and one where a reliance on AVEs is not going to cut any ice. To prove the value of their service, public relations firms need to have more conversations with their clients’ PPC agencies, ensuring that their content is aligned with the SEO strategy and that they are credited with the traffic that the content they have placed is driving to their clients’ websites.

It’s PR, Jim, but Not as We Know It

The PR world built its success by talking up its clients’ achievements, and we would all benefit if we took more of our own medicine. The tried and tested skills of public relations are more important than ever, and this is one message we shouldn’t be shy about broadcasting to the world.

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