Looking back at 2018, we can all agree that it was a particularly eventful year on many fronts including challenging political and economic environments and regular breaking news that in many cases shook people’s faith in humanity, our society, our gender and our politics and demanded – on many of these issues – each of us to take a ‘side’.
Several social media platforms and news sources came under the spotlight and as a result fell from their pedestal for either breach of trust and privacy and ethical misdemeanor. In some cases, they acted as vehicles in the spreading of fake news as well as promoting hate speech and racial attacks that are considered ugly and unacceptable by the majority.
Against this backdrop, the year gone saw the beginning of a new era, a global community that called for transparency, authenticity, facts and basic social accountability. Much of which will continue to impact 2019 as well. Trust needed to be earned and not taken for granted. People worldwide now had real trust issues when it came to various news sources which were never questioned before. According to Statista study (2017) both established broadcast TV and print media are still the most trusted new sources.
As a result, the PR profession was challenged in more ways than one last year. The outcome you ask? We came out stronger and due to what took place and continues to do so, we evolved with the times. Modern PR came into its own, our services and expertise in more demand now than ever.
Our role as modern PR professionals has set us challenges and we have done what we always do — overcome to evolve into well rounded communication consultants, agile and possessing a wealth of interconnected disciplines (engaging content creation and presentation, reputation management, digital media, marketing strategy, traditional and social media campaigns, crisis management and even experts in the technology that can help to deliver some of these) which we call upon to instantly navigate our client’s brands, products and/or solutions effectively.
Given the challenges, and our dogged focus to overcome and further be relevant and add value, it’s difficult to define change easily, but I have attempted to focus on what I feel are some of the most pertinent ones to note going into 2019.
The key four areas that experienced change include:
Being Tech Savvy Is No Longer An Option
In the super connected world of today, more entities recognize the need for a strategic capable and creative content marketing PR partner. Businesses, government bodies, personalities and anyone who wants to build a brand presence, has clear objectives when it comes to gaining mind share with target audiences’ especially online. The art of effective, engaging and creative storytelling is a not only key but essential, as it’s not just about writing or filming and capturing content, rather the talent is in making it relevant, true to the brand, engaging and targeted.
As a result of this close partnership with a tech savvy PR partner, businesses can enjoy the rewards this kind of all-round expertise they can deliver. This would include enabling these entities to be responsive to breaking news, adept at addressing fake news, and aware of, and understanding the ongoing conversations taking place online across the key communities round the clock. In addition, a tech savvy PR partner who embraces the latest technology trends, tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), apps, virtual reality (VR), data marketing and online sharing and information amplification can be all the difference to a brand’s communication campaign
Credible Media Sources – Limited
Fake news permeated the news agenda in 2018 and continues into this year with little being done to counter this by the dominant social media platforms thus affecting even the mainstream media. As well as fake/paid for followers by predominantly unregulated influencers and online ‘news sources’ and data privacy breaches and the increasing incidences of cyber attacks on social media platforms, made the job of PR more challenging. Finding credible and trusted news outlets to promote our clients, as well as developing and executing plans to ensure authenticity of those clients brands and messaging proved to demand greater focus of time and resources. That need for greater focus has meant we have all worked harder to generate the engagement with the right channels through which to convey our Clients messages and manage their reputations
Transparency & Taking A Stance Are Increasingly Important
Customers, followers and other key stakeholders all respect and feel empathy when any company, organization or government upholds and promotes transparency. Silence or a neutral stance is no longer acceptable and can backfire on any brand. We’re now brand navigators not only guiding our clients through these new, challenging but exciting landscapes but also in some cases steering them towards an issue rather than avoiding them or staying silent on them.
It’s not who shouts the loudest, rather the one who shows that their core brand values reflect a tolerant and liberal society and are willing to approach and deal with issues in the same way. Thought and ethical-leadership are critical and in today’s environment necessary and a priority for any brand and it shouldn’t be solely the job of a CEO or senior leadership but a collective responsibility, coupled with a genuine corporate social responsibility policy and culture. Trust built on transparency is a big factor in gaining and keeping a loyal customer base.
Wow Content Strategists
As modern PR professionals, we can write, create and produce content in different forms to give life to a client’s message and make it compelling to their target audiences. It’s a developed art that comes with experience, passion for what we do every day. We possess an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the brand, its business and communication objectives, the market and its nuances, all potential customers and competitors and based on this all this info, we carefully select what we need to say, do, to who and when.
All content needs to be relevant, meaningful and easily repurposed without losing the message for different use across different channels — whether earned, owned or paid. Some brands nowadays, want to be found in searches online and through voice communication thanks to AI and the likes of Alexa. The importance of engaging content has no limits as it takes on more forms going into the future.
As more content goes online, data analytics is key. Easy access to such data monitoring tools, is facilitating the whole planning process for PR professionals and marketers by providing invaluable intelligence to create a more customer-centric campaign.
As a modern PR professional, I look to the future with a renewed sense of purpose and adventure as we work with brands and navigate them through a complex, yet exciting connected world.