As target audiences change, the tools for engaging them evolve, and machines enable us to do our jobs faster and more accurately. Our core function remains the same, however. PR pros still will be responsible for creating stories that educate, influence and connect people with our organizations and brands. To thrive in 2020, communications professionals will need to become more creative, have strong cognitive flexibility, collaborate, be emotionally intelligent and develop the grit necessary to constantly challenge the status quo. Here are ways to start building these important skills now.
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In 2002, social networking came into play with the launch of Friendster, followed by LinkedIn in 2003. In 2006, Facebook opened up to the general public and Twitter launched. With each new social media milestone, the movement to cultivate relationships with influencers has grown. As we know, modern-day social influencers are prominent people, often bloggers, who have the reputation and power to sway others with their opinions. They represent opportunities to shape perceptions about your corporate and brand reputation, in addition to your products and solutions. The long-term goal is to convert them into brand advocates.
In most cases employees are, and will always be, a brand’s greatest asset. They drive in-house and agency success. Engaging them should be the highest priority. It’s the CEO’s responsibility to help achieve a singular, straightforward vision that propels the business and energizes employees to be best in class, renowned for unrivaled talent, forward-thinking capabilities and unrelenting client service. Achieving a vision like this requires building an incredible company spirit where every employee feels that “we are in this together” and maintaining an exceptional culture that embraces doing something different for clients, colleagues and the community. Central to the creation of this shared passion for success is a dedicated plan for actively engaging and motivating employees.
Like all social media platforms, Snapchat is tweaking itself, and the social community responds with changes of its own. Just weeks ago it was accurate to say Snapchat contained no e-commerce ads, that it averaged 8 billion daily views and that curated content on the evanescent platform was strictly verboten, a liability for brands intent on having maximum control of the message. Each of those statements now is untrue. Quickly to the first two: Snapchat began accepting e-commerce ads May 1 and it now says it is averaging 10 billion views daily. While those first two points are important to brand communicators, especially those interested in speaking to a millennial demo, the curated content piece may be the most important.
Confucius said, “Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” The same holds for PR firms and profitably. Data supplied exclusively to PR News Pro by Gould + Partners reveals none of the 106 PR firms, which were grouped by net revenue, reached 20% profitability, the industry benchmark. Individually, some firms polled for this 2016 study had 30% profitability, others were far less. The groups failed to reach 20% profitability in the ’14 and ’15 surveys, too.
Social media is a green field for PR pros. Virtually every person you want to market to spends time online engaging with a social media platform. The catch is you must stand out. In a world where everyone wants just a minute of your time, asking for the mere seconds it takes to read and like a post is a tall order. The nonprofit association CompTIA faced this challenge. To get results it failed to attain previously, the association had to do things it hadn’t done before. By going back to journalism basics it rebooted its approach to social media, and increased engagement by as much as 180%. Thinking like a journalist will not only help you achieve your goals, it will make you indispensable as this niche grows in professional relevance.
Great stories—about medical breakthroughs, heroic acts by children, emerging infectious diseases—are relegated to the trash bin, while “Grumpy Cat” is featured on national evening news. There are plenty of reasons this happens. Newsrooms are shrinking. Reporters are more harried since they are asked to write, blog, tweet, appear on video, among other duties. Brand priorities change and resources are limited. But most likely the problem lies in the execution of the pitch.
Despite years of being asked for more concrete performance metrics, of complaining that “they just don’t understand” what we do, and of being given opportunities at every turn to make a change, we somehow believe that public relations is absolved from having to play by the same rules.
39% of PR pros told us their salary increases were modest (1%-3%) (Figure A). In addition 32% received no salary increase or said salary increases did not apply to them. As in 2015, most PR pros (87%) in 2016 said they were very or moderately satisfied with their occupation and, believe it or not, their pay packages (68%) (Figure C).
It’s a PR 101 conundrum: Charges are made against an important brand; the brand’s stature and the nature of the charges result in press coverage; the brand delays its response and a story is born. The brand then reaches out to the complainants and listens to their charges. Within a few days the brand investigates and concludes the charges are untrue. Some of the complainants agree with the brand’s assessment, while others say the investigation was faulty and demand increased transparency from the brand. The story results in many people thinking deeper about the brand and what it does. For some, the perception of the brand will change, if even just slightly.
This is a grossly simple way of looking at the story about conservative groups saying Facebook’s algorithm has been giving short shrift to stories with a conservative viewpoint. With 1 billion+ people using it each day, including 8 billion+ video views, Facebook arguably is the dominant social platform and a major component of brands’ social outreach.