As PR strives to build on the credibility it has earned over the past few decades in particular, those in the profession have the opportunity to become true business leaders with influence over decision-making on the macro scale.
A number of societal shifts and consumer trends are changing the way we do our jobs. Due to time pressures of an always-on global business environment, PR professionals have to be smartly selective of which aspects to focus on, both on a strategic level and on a day-to-day operational level.
Based on insight gained from top global agencies and our interactions with local and international technology leaders, these are the four biggest PR trends right now:
Trend 1 – Mobility
Millennials are entering the workforce en masse and have no time or patience for outdated methodologies. They demand a flexible work environment that allows for remote working; and why shouldn’t they when broadband connectivity is so ubiquitous and travelling costs and times are at an all-time high? Tablet computers and smartphones also make it easier than ever to abandon the desktop and work anywhere, at any time.
On the flip side, PR pros today need to ensure there is a mobile component to all their campaigns. A recent global study found that people look at their phones on average 150 times per day. Can you really afford not to optimise your content for mobile when it’s getting such a large share of eyeballs and attention?
Trend 2 – Integrity
Ethical questions surrounding spin, churnalism, lobbying, astroturfing and cherry picking facts are by no means new to the PR industry. However, the advent of social media has brought a greater degree of transparency to businesses, which has in turn necessitated a more focused approach to above-board PR practice.
Consumers are also facing exhaustion from advertising messages of products and services proclaiming to solve all their worldly problems, with the result that subtler, more honest and direct engagement with brands and companies often harvest greater reputational rewards. Ensuring your actions are consistent with the messages you put out in media currently makes you a standout brand.
For PR professionals, using social media as a personal branding vehicle can mean the difference between a top job at a Fortune 500 company and being relegated to the back pages of recruiters’ black books. Companies know that there’s scope for undue enhancement of achievements and experience via social media, and will do their own research into your credibility. Make sure you can back up claims of excellence with evidence.
Trend 3 – Measurement
The great question in PR is: how do we measure our results? Unfortunately, the nature of some PR practices – for example, crisis comms – mean that traditional measurement tools (such as press clippings) are not adequate. Digital tools bring greater measurement capability to every PR pros fingertips, often with real-time audience data. But does “engagement” truly make your client’s business more profitable?
For most PR pros, showing measurable results relies entirely on having a solid strategy in place with detailed PR objectives linked to business objectives that deliver bottom-line results. The SLA (Service Level Agreement) becomes a key driver of whether companies feel PR is delivering a measurable return.
Trend 4 – Leadership
PR has earned its seat at the boardroom table and ‘Head of PR’ is often considered a key leadership role in today’s business environment. Communications professionals are nowadays invited to be part of top-level business strategy formulation and can often lend a unique angle to certain business issues facing the organisation.
There is at the same time a growing discontent with the level of business leadership. Instability within organisations due to the influence of various macro issues make it more challenging than ever to be a corporate leader. The World Economic Forum’s Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014 even mentions a lack of leadership values as one of its top trends for this year.
PR can and should play a dual role here. By being a sounding board for how messages are presented to various stakeholders, PR can influence what products and initiatives go to market and when, in order to make audiences more receptive to these messages. In addition, PR’s role in upholding high levels of integrity should help keep executives accountable, leading to better decision making and a likely rise in the level of leadership.