2018 PR Trends – test 3

January 2018
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Musings from the Clearpoint blog 

As we turned our calendars to 2018, we took it as an opportunity to look forward and predict five PR and marketing trends you’re likely to see in the new year. 

1) PR Is Even More Important
Hollywood’s sexual harassment scandals, Equifax’s security breach, United Airlines’ mistreatment of passengers – all illustrated the need for effective public relations in 2017, and this need will continue into the new year as companies are increasingly held to higher standards.

Public relations, or the “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” according to Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), will be on the rise. The continued influence of social media, the prominence of the term “fake news”, the demand for greater transparency—will continue to drive the need for PR as consumers become more and more skeptical and closely examine companies they do business with.

Organizations and individuals will increasingly rely on PR to help set the strategy, protect and enhance their reputations, and drive a more consistent, favorable public image—from media coverage to social media to online reviews and more.

2) PR & Marketing Become Even More Aligned
PR is not only becoming more essential, but also more tightly integrated with other marketing functions. Before, PR might have included a combination of strategy, crisis communications, press releases and media relations, content strategy/collateral development, analyst relations, speaker bureaus, awards campaigns and reporting. Today it is also including comprehensive content and lead gen strategies, social media campaigns, SEO, advertising, partner strategies, analytics, events and more. Fifty-four percent of marketers say public relations will only become “more closely aligned with marketing”, according to a study from The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the USC Center for Public Relations. The most effective communications campaigns are consistent, integrated and tied together to produce the most concentrated, effective results.

In particular, the line between SEO and PR will disappear in 2018. There’s no doubt about it, high-value content, backlinks and the use of on-target, long-tail keywords drive search.  And PR practitioners who create content are in the driver’s seat, deciding what words and links are used within contributed articles, press releases and blogs. PR firms and good internal marketing teams will take SEO strategies in-house in 2018.

3) The Growth of Micro Influencers; Everyone Will Be an Influencer
Back in the day, industry analysts (from Gartner, IDC, Meta Group, before its acquisition from the former, and the like) were the original influencers. Today this description has expanded to include company executives, employees, influential bloggers, companies themselves (with many starting their own publications), and even you or your neighbor, if you hold enough influence in a certain field or hobby. It also includes YouTubers, mommy bloggers, social media personalities and anyone else with a significant following.

But the rise of the micro influencer is something to watch. These micro influencers are often most active in a niche or subset of a product category, and because they are already super fans, they may promote your brand as a service to their audience or for a small offering of the product to review. When they promote your brand, it comes off as more trustworthy because their followers know that the influencer already loves your brand’s products or services. Their review and content is believable, relatable and perceived as genuine because it is!

Influencer marketing has steadily grown, surpassing print advertising in popularity overall, and is closing the gap with video advertising, according to Google Trends. In certain industries, it is particularly prominent. 60% of fashion and beauty brands have an influencer marketing strategy, and 21% plan to invest in it in the next year, says eConsultancy.

The growth of Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, Yelp are all helping to fuel it, and continued distrust in mainstream media is also contributing, according to Forbes. Regardless, influencer marketing is further blending the lines between PR, marketing, advertising and paid versus earned media.

4) Press Releases Will Be Transformed
For years PR pros have debated the death of the press release, but today it is still a PR mainstay that is relied upon in newsrooms, necessary for public companies, and if done right, often picked up verbatim. In 2018, press releases will be further transformed. In fact, you might say the most effective of them will be on steroids. Good press releases will no longer be “text heavy”, coming in at or below news wire word count minimums. They will leverage social, SEO, video, blogs and be the “diving board” for full-on PR and marketing campaigns. In fact, companies like NewsDriver and others are innovating and changing the face of them completely into digital, lead generation machines. Marketers and PR professionals will be further challenged in 2018 to transform this mainstay into a creative communications vehicle that drives media attention and prospect interest.

5) Successful Brands Will Amp Up Story Telling
While a lot has changed in the digital channels we use and how we communicate, some of the most important things are primal. Increasingly, the most successful brands (in both B2C and B2B) will seek to connect with individuals through stories in 2018.

As human beings, we want to relate to others. It’s the reason personal stories and gossip make up 65 percent of our conversations according to science and tech journalist Jeremy Hsu, and that we are 22X more likely to remember a story than facts. When we hear a tale, we want to relate to it on a physical level. We experience neural coupling; our brains igniting the same parts that respond to emotion, colors, senses, as details unfold. It’s no different with brands. Ninety-two percent of people want to do business with companies that share their beliefs, according to Edelman. Think: Apple, Toms Shoes, Disney.

The most successful brands will put storytelling front and center like never before, conceiving even more creative ways to use it—interactive case studies, Q&As, Instagram stories, profiles, documentary style videos, unifying cause marketing and brand purpose

What other trends are you predicting in the New Year?  We would love to get your feedback. Or feel free to contact us to learn how we can help you with any of the above.
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