By Sarah Skerik, Vice President-Social Media, PR Newswire
Wednesday, we discussed the evolving media environment, and some of the emerging PR trends that will impact our business in 2013. Today, we’re going to drill down into more tactical PR trends, and discuss how the practice of PR is changing on a fundamental level.
The outcomes expected of PR are evolving, and that’s where we’ll start today. Traditionally, PR outcomes have been campaign based, and in many cases, have been measured fairly narrowly, in terms of media pick up and AVEs. Tying PR output to the business bottom line has long been a challenge. It’s a different story today, however, and it requires an expanded view of measurement across the enterprise.
“What we measure is part of the puzzle,” notes Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance PR and author of Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional. “When we look at the metrics we capture, we have to be working with other business areas to gauge the full impact. The pieces connect. We’re not in a silo. We have to make correlations between the data and the outcomes.”
So what are some of the outcomes we’re seeing PR departments charged with delivering?
Reputation & mindshare: In today’s connected business and social environments, PR is charged with developing reputation and generating lasting mindshare.
Example: Today’s buyers (both consumer and B2B) conduct extensive research before contacting vendors. If a brand doesn’t have a good reputation, positive reviews and strong search and social visibility, it will be eliminated from consideration well before the prospect gets serious about buying. Instead of building episodic awareness, the new imperative for PR is to develop ongoing brand visibility and a strong reputation.
Lead generation, web site traffic, conversion rates: Yes, you’re still reading a post about public relations. One of the strongest emerging trends is the requirement for PR to deliver hard, measurable business results, whether that’s measured in an increase in web site traffic, or leads generated. Delivering results that hit the top line, while formerly the domain of marketing, is increasingly expected of PR departments, and to PR’s benefit (in my mind, at least.) Information drives many purchasing decisions today, and it’s only natural that the department responsible for conveying much of an organization’s information plays a strong role in influencing customer decisions. However, doing that requires PR to become much attuned to the audiences, and to develop messages within that context.
“We have to ask how we differentiate ourselves,” says Shana Harris, COO of the Warchawski Agency. “What are our goals, and what are the audience’s pain points? We have to put ourselves in our target audience’s shoes, understand the target audience and understand the experience we want to create for them.”
Related reading: Demand More from Your Press Releases
It goes without saying that PR tactics are evolving in tandem with shifts in the media, information and attention markets. Emerging trends that are gathering steam as we head into 2013 include:
- “Content PR”: You’ve undoubtedly heard of content marketing – the practice of deploying content designed to interest, educate and inform an audience, in order to attract them to the brand and to influence decisions in the brand’s favor. Many of the tactics adopted by content marketers are pulled straight from PR’s playbook, but the way content marketers are using them should awaken PR pros to the opportunities in their midst.
Specifically, content marketers focus on developing content that serves the audience, answering their questions and giving them the information and education they are seeking. Conversely, PR has traditionally spent a lot of its time crafting the message the brand wants the marketplace to hear. “Content PR” is an emerging trend that combines PR’s access to influencers and its traditional role as the storytellers in chief for the organization with the audience-focused approach advocated by content marketers. The most effective PR departments are evolving their message strategy, developing stories their respective marketplaces will eagerly devour (and like, post, tweet and share.)
Related reading: Content marketing case study: It sure looks like PR to me
Communicating visually: We’ve been talking about multimedia here at PR Newswire for years: as previously discussed on this blog, we know empirically that press releases that include some sort of visual (image, infographic, video, etc.) generate better results than their plain-text brethren. At this point, it’s probably safe to say that multimedia communications are less of a trend, and more of an imperative, for communicators today. However, the mechanisms by which our audiences access, ingest and share the images, resources and video we publish continue to multiply. Developing the ability and means to communicate key messages visually is an important skill required of today’s PR pros, and an investment required of PR departments.
Related reading: Press Releases With Multimedia Get Better Results
In just a few days, I’ll be celebrating my 18th year with PR Newswire. While that is a staggering number and I’d be willing to argue that I can’t possibly be *that* old, this post caused me to reflect on all the changes I’ve seen during my tenure with “the Wire” (as we affectionately call it.) PR is an infinitely interesting discipline, and the changes enumerated in my last couple posts underscore the simple fact that we are getting closer and closer to the intersection of information, interest and intent that is really the golden ring for communicators. Are you as excited about what’s in store for communicators in 2013 as I am?
Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.
Want to dig deeper into the evolution of PR and trends to watch for in 2013? Access the archive of a recent webinar titled PR Prepping for the New Year: A Look at the Evolution of Modern PR & What It Means for You discussing the evolution of PR and trends for 2013. Panelists included:
- Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge), CEO of Pure Performance Communications
- Shannon Ryan (@brandrelevance) GM, Online Marketing Summit
- Shana Harris COO of Warschawski (@theWagency)