10 Key Trends That Will Change the World of Public Relations

Nate Illsley

The world of PR has come a long way, even in the past few years, and while it’s allowed us to provide a myriad of added value to our clients, it’s also resulted in a number of challenges. As we continue to move forward and adapt along with the changing overall landscape, a number of trends are sure to have a significant impact on our industry.

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Below are ten key trends to stay on top of.

1. Social media is no longer optional. As recently as a few years ago, brands still did not fully understand the value of social media, with robust social programs not seen as a significant value-add. But now the tides have shifted and social media has become fully-integrated into communications and PR strategies. As platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn become more and more engrained in our everyday life, our focus on elevating these platforms will become even more critical to reach the right audience. Gone are the days when simply having a social presence was enough - PR professionals need to take these programs to the next level to stand out.

Looking to integrate your social media efforts with your earned strategy? You might be interested in reading: How to Utilize Social Media Integration Across Your PR Strategies.

2. You’re not the only one pitching that reporter. On a daily basis, reporters can receive more than a hundred pitches, and more likely than not, at least a handful of PR pros are focused on the same exact topic as you and your brand. To avoid a public shaming on @DearPR, pitches need to be as compelling as possible and actually have something new to add to the conversation. Make your query as unique as possible and offer up insight that the reporter can’t get anywhere else, or else they’ll be hitting delete.

3. There are fewer reporters to pitch. Unfortunately, in recent years we’ve seen a decline in the total number of journalists employed at both local and national outlets. While smaller hometown papers like Massachusetts’ own Wicked Local have merged and consolidated teams, major national publications like IDG, Buzzfeed, and Mashable have gone through significant layoffs, cutting staff in an effort to stay profitable. The remaining reporters are often overloaded as publications try to generate the same cadence of content with fewer people to do it, so pitching the right reporter at exactly the right time is more difficult than it once was.

4. More outlets are looking for contributed content. The upside to the newsroom being swamped is that more and more publications are seeking contributed content and bylines from outside experts to ensure a steady stream of content. If a topic has legs but a reporter simply doesn’t have to cover it themselves, requesting a byline on the subject has become an increasingly popular practice, so don’t be afraid to proactively make the offer in your pitch.

5. Out of the box pitching gets you noticed. How many times has this happened to you? You send a reporter an email and they don’t respond, so you send a follow-up, but they still don’t respond, so you try calling them, but sure enough, they don’t answer, so you send one last follow-up email, and then call it quits. We’ve all been there, and it can be incredibly disheartening, but that doesn’t mean you should give up just yet. In the age of social media, every reporter has a Twitter account and most are actively monitoring it throughout the day. Try sending your target a DM or tweet at them with a quick pitch. Believe it or not, this strategy has become more and more effective and at the very least will ensure they see your pitch which may have gone unnoticed in a cluttered inbox.

Looking for an example of how this was put into practice successfully? Check out my other blog post: Influencer Relations: Using Social to Reach the Untouchables.

6. PR and marketing are becoming more and more integrated. While PR and marketing are inherently different beasts, they’re becoming increasingly tied together as companies build robust communications programs. Marketing has historically been about reaching the customer in a way that increases sales, while PR has been about reputation management, but the lines between those goals have become increasingly blurred. Brand reputation has become critical for attracting and retaining customers, and positive PR can become a marketing tool in itself.

Get more information on how these efforts work to support one another by reading: Defining Your Integrated Marketing and PR Strategy.

7. Timing is everything. In the age of social media, news breaks faster than ever, leaving PR pros with VERY little time to react. The news cycle is exceedingly short, and within an hour of an important announcement, all the major outlets will have run articles, and you may have already missed the window to insert a client’s voice into the mix. Acting fast and immediately jumping on breaking news is critical, and even a matter of minutes can make the difference between landing a top-tier media placement and being completely left out of the story.

Need more info on reacting to a news cycle quickly? Make sure you check out: How to Hack the News Cycle for Social Success.

8. Editorial calendars are quickly becoming a thing of the past. In the age of breaking news, it’s becoming exceedingly hard for a publication’s editorial board to proactively plan and schedule stories. While some outlets, especially trades, still post editorial calendars online, these are subject to change at a moment’s notice. These calendars are usually generated towards the end of the previous year, and as we’ve all seen happen, something that seems like it’d be interesting to readers in December may be completely irrelevant by the following June even though a few months have passed. While these calendars can still be a decent starting point, using them as a set-in-stone roadmap to dictate your pitching strategy is often a losing game.

9. PR has become highly specialized. Especially in the past few years, agencies have narrowed their focus and steered towards clients in specific industries and have worked to build a reputation as experts in a certain field. Even if a firm maintains clients in several industries, dedicated teams within the agency are segmented by specialty and employees typically have specific focus areas. As a result, PR pros need more than ever to be well-versed and knowledgeable regarding the overall industry that their clients fall into. The “jack of all trades” type of background no longer flies, and expectations are higher than ever.

You might also be interested in reading: 5 Things You Didn’t Know Your Public Relations Agency Could Do.

10. Influencer relations is becoming more complex. While many consider traditional and social media relations to be the two main components of a robust PR campaign, influencer relations and relationship building has become much more in-depth and intricate, encompassing key targets such as analysts, industry insiders, and client advocates. Reaching the right influencers is no longer just about casting a wide net and hoping your message crosses the path of a decision maker. Effective influencer relations campaigns are becoming more and more granular and targeted, with more of an emphasis placed on connecting with the right person instead of as many people as possible.

PR is a constantly changing field, and while this inevitably presents several challenges, it’s also an opportunity to stand out from the pack. By staying on top of these trends and adequately preparing ourselves for what’s to come, we can elevate our client offerings to a new level and transform the way we provide value to the brands and companies that need it most.

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