In recent years, the lines separating marketing and public relations have blurred. The rapid evolution of tech and reliance on data, the continued emphasis on content creation, and the increasing prevalence of influencer marketing—to name a few factors—have all forced tried-and-true PR tactics out the window in favor of something fresher and more effective for today’s audiences. With 2020 just around the corner, here are seven informed predictions for what the coming year holds—or should hold—for PR professionals.
Top PR trends to watch in 2020
Vicki Ho, Communications Director, Movement Strategy
One of the most important trends I’m seeing within public relations on the agency side is the value the industry is placing on our strategic role within a larger marketing campaign, rather than just being valued for the end results. Earned media is only as good as the campaign itself—or the story it tells. This is a public relations agency’s sweet spot, and so, they should position their PR teams at the very onset of ideation to showcase how PR should actually be top of mind during the planning process. It’ll set them up as more strategic thinkers than executional machines.
Hailey Johnson, Content Strategist, Three Sixty Eight
PR professionals and marketers working together and sharing knowledge is the new trend. Audiences are becoming increasingly wary of the content they are presented. For that reason, all content should be authentic and transparent to a level that was not seen before. Audiences want quality content that provides something they didn’t have before. Agencies should hire PR professionals in writing-based roles such as content strategists and digital marketing strategists, who can focus on strategic writing that truly connects with audiences.
To serve clients with PR needs, agencies need to first build strong partnerships with clients in order to increase trust and transparency. This then encourages the client to share more with the agency, creating a true partnership. Second, agencies need to ensure that the content they are creating is the most accurate information possible to then build trust with external audiences.
Michelle Crawley, Public Relations Director, TriComB2B
Collaboration continues to be more important than ever. Public relations efforts should align with strong content marketing strategy, as securing meaningful earned coverage requires an investment in content creation. Agencies can better position themselves in 2020 by helping clients understand the value of creating the right content as part of a broader thought leadership message and by knowing where to reach their audiences. A message may be pitched by a PR professional in story, video or podcast format, but it also needs to be shared on the right social channels for broader reach. And don’t forget that today’s CMOs are requiring measurement in all areas of marketing—whether showing the effectiveness of PR or connecting email campaigns to a sale. Public relations professionals need to be able to demonstrate the reach of their placements and prove what messaging is working.
Jalila Levesque, Head of Group Communications and PR, FF
In a world that’s becoming increasingly ruled by algorithms and robots, PR strategy must be driven by emotion and have that human element in order to be more meaningful and lead to a growing focus on expert, local and enthusiastic micro-influencers, instead of macro-influencers. There is more content online today than ever before. Not surprisingly, there is now a rising consumer trend towards digital detox and decluttering. The question for PR pros is how to emerge in today’s world of hyperconnectivity and digital addiction. Reporters and customers need to be able to trust PR pros not just to present them with content that is relevant to them, but to not waste their time with an overdose of info or irrelevant messaging. More than ever, agencies will have to demonstrate a deep understanding of their clients' business and leverage creativity and production to support PR strategies.
Issa Sawabini, Partner, Fuse
It is no longer enough to pitch media and secure coverage. PR pros need to consider all aspects of a client’s social and digital footprint. This could include creating original content in 10-second formats for social or getting spokespeople and influencers to do an Instagram takeover. Media outlets continue to be consolidated, closed and/or have their frequency lessened, and yet journalists are still inundated by the amount of pitches and ideas they receive. We have found the most success with two strategies. The first is offering media experiences: This enables them to write—and us to secure—first-hand, in-depth articles. The second is offering video content in a range of lengths and formats. For example, we can pitch media about a unique skatepark design, but if you show it to them and their audience via video content, they understand the messages you are trying to convey and it also ensures client branding is included.
Heather Segal, Group Strategy Director, Zulu Alpha Kilo
Over the past few years PR has been overwhelmingly replaced by influencer marketing. This media initiative creates conversation at a social level, but pays for its presence instead of earning it. There is an opportunity moving forward to lead ideas that can harness and resolve a tension, or serve a public interest to organically earn conversation in culture and media. With an idea like “The Away Game” for Tim Hortons, we were able to capture the hearts of Canadians and hockey lovers worldwide by giving the sole hockey team in Kenya someone to play. The result: over 300 million media impressions and a 100 percent lift in positive brand sentiment.
Jason Falls, Director of Digital and Social Strategy, Cornett
The overarching trend for the last few years in public relations is how data is impacting how PR does its job. We need big data because the media landscape has exploded and fractionalized exponentially, and as a result, audiences are smaller and more concentrated. An influencer on Instagram with 40,000 followers might have more impact on your brand than the local daily with a circulation of 300,000 because those followers are dialed into the specific vertical or industry you speak to. We can’t just send press releases and assume the traditional media will cover everyone we want to reach anymore. We have to understand consumers and the direction of their attention. Sometimes, that direction is more like a ping-pong ball path than a straight line.