Since the rise of the Internet, the traditional landscape of public relations has been in a near-constant state of flux. However, at its core, PR still remains about disseminating information to the public with the goal of cultivating mutually beneficial relationships built on trust and understanding. To be successful, PR pros are compelled to continually analyze their processes and be flexible to change in order to remain relevant in the modern business structure.
In many circles, 2014 has been earmarked as an important milestone in PR, as professionals have the opportunity to assume a central role in the success and progress of organizations by embracing a future that has already arrived. If you are searching for strategies to secure your place in the boardroom and advance your department to the cutting edge, consider these five PR trends gaining traction:
1. Continued Push for ROI
The old line is that it is too difficult to calculate a return on investment for the broad scope of a public relations campaign. This is stale and ineffectual thinking in the digital age. In order to justify their existence and command the attention of corporate decision makers, PR managers need to get over the fear of relying on data and numerical formulas to judge results.
The general consensus among industry experts is that technology is close to cracking the code on accurately measuring the impact of PR, providing increasingly sophisticated tools for gauging things such as consumer engagement, brand sentiment and actions directly attributed to incoming revenue, while at the same time illuminating areas of strategic adjustments to optimize campaigns.
2. Erasing Traditional Boundaries
In recent years boundaries have clearly been blurred for PR professionals, especially for those who cut their teeth in the era of more traditional media. While there has been some reluctance to crossing lines that had been established for generations, the mandate now seems to be either rebel from past conventions or perish.
PR teams have to get comfortable not only with the idea of collaborating closely with complementary departments such as marketing and sales, but also embrace the concept of working with fans who in many ways are now a business's most effective spokespersons. The reality is the use of channels such as social media marketing, content marketing and SEO in business have moved marketing and sales into the realm of public relations. In turn, PR must get more closely involved in marketing and sales, or otherwise risk getting pushed aside.
3. Advanced Brand Journalism
The fact that traditional media is undergoing a precipitous decline has been well documented, leaving public relations departments searching for more sustainable ways to disseminate their messages to the masses. Charged with the arduous task of growing a unique targeted audience and engaging it with effective content, businesses are increasingly expanding brand journalism capabilities by contracting freelancers or bringing seasoned journalists and publishers in-house to enhance their ability to develop and execute winning content strategies.
At the heart of this trend is the growing importance for PR practitioners to recognize social media and digital publishing as new preferred outlets for accessing news. At the same time, they need to leverage the ability to identify audiences through data analytics and intelligently deliver content over preferred channels.
4. Renewed Emphasis On Trust
Building trust with the public has long been a foundational aspect of an effective PR campaign. However, in the virtual environment, where individuals are exposed to threats they are ill equipped to deal with, it is essential to send a message that instills confidence and trust.
Look no further than the recent Target data breach for an example of how poorly prepared even the most powerful corporate entities appear to be in dealing with security concerns and the toll it can take on reputation and profitability. In reaction, businesses do well by posturing as leaders in dealing with the emerging threats of the 21st century by relating in real terms the progressive actions they are taking to harbor a secure environment to conduct business in.
5. The Social Mission
The success of social enterprises (i.e., organizations that operate as commercial entities with the goal of generating revenues to support important human and environmental change) such as TOMS shoes and Seventh Generation has reverberated throughout the corporate world. While not every business is now ready to shift its focus from serving investors or a board of directors to serving the needs of the underprivileged, the concept of tying a philanthropic mission to the brand objective is a powerful tool for winning over socially conscious consumers.
Consider the move CVS recently made by announcing that it would no longer send the mixed message of selling cigarettes while positioning itself as a comprehensive health and wellness provider. Aligning your business with a social cause that resonates with your core consumers and taking action that holds real potential for change can forge deeper emotional connections with the public.
Public relations is transforming in many ways - but ultimately, the goals remain the same. By crossing over traditional boundaries, utilizing modern tools to achieve results and demonstrate effectiveness, and placing deeper emphasis on the very fabric of an organization that makes it valuable and unique, PR professionals can ride the winds of change to greater relevance in the days and years to come.
What additional PR trends do you foresee taking root?
Brian Spero is a social media specialist and online contributor to Moneycrashers.com. He frequently writes about technology, marketing, small business, and finance.