5 PR Trends to Look for in 2016, So Sayeth the Queen


imagesIn a preface to a royal proclamation, disguised as a 2016 predictions column in PR News earlier this month, The Queen of Measurement and Metrics, Katie Paine, wrote: “The sky will tumble, mountains will crumble. If you’re afraid of change, 2016 will be a miserable year.”

With that warning, try to be of good cheer. Seriously, below are trends the Queen and other Lords, Dukes and Ladies of the PR News court are anticipating in the New Year.

1. Smart Storytelling = Avoiding Content Pollution: With the human attention span decreasing as fast as Chipotle’s share price, PR has just seconds to tell its story with words and video. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not, as Andrew Bowins, VP, corporate reputation, Samsung Electronics America, told Bob Pearson, president, chief innovation officer, W20 Group: “In 2016 communicators need to look in the mirror and decide if they have become content polluters. In the frenzy to be brand publishers and leverage digital channels we may have forgotten the basic rules of PR: communicate with purpose; target your audiences and be relevant. Pull back the throttle a little, embrace data to understand your audience and shape content that actually stirs a desired reaction.”

2. Content Marketing Will Reach the Saturation Point: Following from the above prognostication, Her Royal Highness, Queen Katie, makes a bold prediction about branded content: “Brands will, of course, bumble along, making mistakes while trying to navigate the new merged environment, confusing what PR does well – building relationships and creating true organic engagement – with marketing. The result? Content marketing will hit the saturation point. The people brands are trying to reach simply will ignore everything most companies spew.”

3. PR’s Measurement Tech Bubble Will Burst: Another prediction from the Queen. The technology and data all-you-can-eat buffet that has engorged the communications landscape will lose its appeal as clients realize all those fancy tools and piles of data are worthless without trained, knowledgeable human expertise to interpret it. Organizations will invest more in talent and human-based insight and dial back technology investments until such time as they can digest what they have already.”

4. A Good Man or Woman Will be Hard to Find and Pay: We can hear Queen Katie exclaiming, 'My queendom for a PR person who knows how to work with data!' Indeed, the monarchy envisions difficulty with recruitment in 2016. She wrote, “The biggest problem no longer will be cost cutting but recruitment. The PR talent pool was never that deep to begin with and many senior pros are looking to retire. At the same time, the rapidly recovering economy is making jobs, many of which have remained vacant for too long, even harder to fill. As corporations step up hiring, it will take longer and be much more expensive to find true talent. And with increased competition on the recruitment side, organizations will need to focus on their culture and reputation, or they’ll be spending a lot more on salaries. Where the money goes, metrics follow – look for more budgets shifting dollars to internal, culture, reputation and CSR measurement.” In light of the Queen's words, another PR News contributor, Joyce Bosc, CEO, Boscobel Marketing Communications, Inc., sees members of the gig economy rising in importance in 2016. In her recent PR News column she stresses that smaller brands and agencies should use the remainder of December to update their lists of skilled members of the gig economy. Ronn Torossian (more about him below), predicts, "With 30% of the U.S. workforce self- employed or working for those who are self-employed, in 2016 it will be a fact of business that virtual will matter more."

5. Video, Mobile, Good Writing and Engagement: Ronn Torossian, founder/CEO, 5WPR, in his column for PR News, “10 PR Trends for 2016,” covers the rising importance of video, SEO and mobile optimization. On the latter, he continues the theme of avoiding content pollution: "Many PR pros still fail to fully comprehend the extent mobile platforms can be exploited. Thanks to improvements in tracking data, and the innovations of app creators, the potential to track and influence engagement is amazing. This growing realization of mobile’s potential leaves most clients wanting to include a mobile channel to achieve their goals, but it is not a magic wand. Similar to trends in online marketing, bet- ter results occur when mobile is used with a purpose, rather than producing an app for the sake of having an app."

Another trenchant observation Torossian makes is related to the predictions above: “The holy grail of social content creation is a formula for creating viral content. To achieve this end, various marketers’ efforts become shocking and entertaining. Technology changes, people do not, however, and neither has the importance of tracking. With tracking being easier than ever, for 2016 the focus should not be on creating viral content, but rather on how good your content is at creating engagement. It is no longer enough to be a good storyteller, because in a flooded marketplace of bombastic storytellers, being useful can be even more valuable than being entertaining.”

Follow Katie Paine: @queenofmetrics

Follow Ronn Torossian: @RTorossian5wpr

Follow Bob Pearson: @bobpearson1845

Follow Joyce Bosc: @JoyceBosc

Follow Andrew Bowins: @justandybowins

Follow Seth Arenstein: @skarenstein