This post was written by Carolyn LoConte, a CPRS Toronto member. LoConte is an Account Coordinator at PRAXIS PR, currently working on alcohol beverage and lifestyle brands. She can be contacted via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
What is public relations?
Simply put, there is no one-sided answer. There is, however, one ironic truth we can rely on to remain the same in this dynamic field – this industry is ever-changing.
In this hyperconnected, competitive world, the PR industry has changed more radically over these last two years than ever before. These years have been crowded with shifting media trends, amplified social media use, and even included the term “fake news” as Collins Word of the Year for 2017.
Amid all of this ambiguity, is there an opportunity in this uncertain future for public relations to thrive?
On December 4, 2017, a trio of accomplished communicators from CPRS Toronto sat down to dive into the conversation of what trends will persist in 2018.
- Lauren More: Vice President of Communications, Ford Motor Company
- Tracey Bochner: Co-Founder/President, Paradigm PR
- Bruce MacLellan: CEO, Environics Communication
- Moderated by Ian Ross: Director of Communications, Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development
- Demand for data
PR pros and students alike are notorious for sporting the statement, ‘I’m not good at math.’ It’s been a longstanding misconception that math is not part of the PR world. Yet, the demand for data has intensified. We increasingly depend on metrics and analytics to gain insights into audiences, improve integrated campaigns, understand media trends and more.
“PR people can no longer be afraid of numbers!” Lauren More said. “They need an appreciation of data. Math wasn’t part of my education, but it’s certainly part of my daily work.”
- Quality over quantity
The panel agreed 2018 is the time to be more strategic. Specifically, it’s worth spending the time on quality, rather than the traditional focus on quantity.
More added that as audiences continue to fragment, and channels continue to multiply, PR pros should focus on creating authentic stories and connections that resonate with their audiences.
“Once we leverage this quality-over-quantity approach, it’s more likely to guide campaigns towards successfully connecting with, and influencing, the right people.”
- Influencer Marketing
There’s no getting around it – influencers are here to stay for the foreseeable future. They been around for decades, but in the past, the “influencer” title was commonly reserved for people with celebrity status, in forms such as models, athletes, or actresses and actors.
This is no longer the case. Influencers have changed the definition of the term “celebrity,” as people continue to follow online personalities who inspire their passions. This ranges from make-up, food and cars, to virtually anything these days.
When choosing influencers, the question has now become, as More put it, a celebrity to whom?
“People can see a famous face every time they open Instagram. As we go into 2018, we should be selective of who we choose to work with. It’s essential to ensure the influencer is connected to the right audience and authentic to the story we want to tell.”
- The Consumer Experience
Consumers are currently craving experiences over material items. People are now using experiences to define themselves across social channels, and the modern consumer has caught on to the idea that experiences are as valuable as fancy things.
Looking ahead, the panel suggested practitioners should be mindful to bind creative, traditional storytelling with meaningful consumer experiences.
“Creative storytelling has never been more important,” MacLellan stated. “The demand for it, along with crafting a memorable consumer experience, is the direction successful communication is heading.”
- Integrated Campaigns
Well-defined differences still remain between the public relations, marketing and advertising fields. However, there is a growing realization that an integrated approach may best accomplish an organization’s objectives.
Panelist Tracey Bochner mentioned within the last year her agency has not been receiving traditional requests, but clients continue to knock at Paradigm’s door.
“This is great, because it says the world recognizes the integrated landscape should live in public relations,” Bochner said. “This is not necessarily a new trend, but the recent shift is coming towards our industry. We need to grab on, and expand our services and skills around it. This is our future.”
- Maintaining trust, authenticity and relationships (especially in a pay-to-play world)
Trust and authenticity has always been the cornerstone of PR, but in an era overloaded with information and “fake news,” it has become increasingly difficult to develop an audience’s trust.
“People have gained a mass ability to see through corporations. Transparency levels are incredible now,” MacLellan noted. “Companies need to learn what the current drivers of trust are, otherwise achieving a genuine relationship with your audience will be awfully challenging.”
Bochner also emphasized the importance of the industry’s continued transparency when it comes to paid programs.
“Our reputation wasn’t great when this practice was being hidden. We have to respect the consumer as they become more knowledgeable of these practices, and maintain this transparency to secure their trust.”
Many of us are already ambitious, multitasking communicators. The panel unanimously agreed everyone is not expected to be both a data-driven analyst and creative storyteller on top of it all. It’s simply important to be aware of these trends, and to embrace them.
With all of the uncertainty ahead, our industry has been presented with the opportunity to shape public relations into what Canada needs. Now is the time to start planning, so we can conquer the communications world in 2018.