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5 Key PR Trends to Watch in 2017

Now that Jan­u­ary is upon us, it is an ide­al time to reflect back on the past year and look to 2017.

The pub­lic rela­tions indus­try saw its impor­tance ele­vat­ed in 2016 due to a num­ber of high-pro­file cor­po­rate mis­steps. Cou­pled with a high­ly con­tentious pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the Amer­i­can peo­ple were bom­bard­ed with mes­sag­ing through a vari­ety of com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nels this past year—almost to the point of exhaus­tion.

There are a vari­ety of lessons 2016 taught us but one thing is inar­guable: The PR indus­try is primed for sig­nif­i­cant growth. Here are five PR trends that will help shape our work as PR pros in 2017:

Journalists Will Be More Diligent Than Ever

If there is one les­son we should all take away from this past year, it’s that jour­nal­ists will be more dili­gent when it comes to the facts—now more than ever. Some of the biggest news out­lets in the Unit­ed States were caught com­plete­ly off guard in 2016 by major cor­po­rate and polit­i­cal sur­pris­es. There is no one answer as to why this hap­pened. Part of it was hyped-up fig­ures dis­guised as facts. Anoth­er cause was the enor­mous prop­a­ga­tion of fake news.

There is no bet­ter exam­ple than the down­fall of Ther­a­nos, the Palo Alto-based blood-test­ing com­pa­ny. The Wall Street Jour­nal’s inves­tiga­tive piece on the com­pa­ny, pub­lished at the end of 2015, pulled back the cur­tain on what many in the busi­ness, health, and tech­nol­o­gy trades thought was going to be a jew­el of Sil­i­con Val­ley.

In real­i­ty, the emper­or had no clothes all along. The Journal’s arti­cle trig­gered a domi­no effect of fol­low-up arti­cles, law­suits, and deval­u­a­tions. Many reporters have pub­licly admit­ted since the down­fall that their cov­er­age of Ther­a­nos should have asked deep­er ques­tions about the company’s tech­nolo­gies. Giv­en how sto­ries like these dom­i­nat­ed the media land­scape this year, edi­tors are already instruct­ing their reporters to look more close­ly at the facts and what pub­lic rela­tions pro­fes­sion­als send.

Third-Party Research Will Be Critical to Credentialing Pitches

Many in our indus­try under­stand that third-par­ty research or stud­ies from a uni­ver­si­ty, think-tank or non-prof­it enti­ty can boost the chances a pitch will be suc­cess­ful. In the same vein as the pre­vi­ous trend, media out­lets are much wari­er of infor­ma­tion they receive now—especially if it is from a prac­ti­tion­er, com­pa­ny or orga­ni­za­tion with which they are not famil­iar. That is why boost­ing pitch­es with third-par­ty infor­ma­tion from rec­og­niz­able sources will play an increas­ing­ly crit­i­cal role in 2017. Fur­ther­more, con­tact­ing third-par­ty sources who might be will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the sto­ry will be even more ben­e­fi­cial.

Reputation Management Matters More

As the extent of PR respon­si­bil­i­ties expands fur­ther, rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment will take its place firm­ly on that list. From media cov­er­age to social media to online reviews, busi­ness­es, orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als will rely on com­mu­ni­ca­tors to pro­tect and enhance their rep­u­ta­tion. In light of the recent study by Dr. Jonathan Albright of Elon Uni­ver­si­ty, there is sig­nif­i­cant con­cern about the destruc­tion of rep­u­ta­tions through fake news sources. Add in the recent explo­sion of online rat­ing web­sites and the need for pub­lic rela­tions pro­fes­sion­als to active­ly work to pro­tect brands is even more appar­ent. There is lit­tle doubt this phe­nom­e­non will con­tin­ue to be a grow­ing chal­lenge. It can­not be solved with one-click algo­rithms from “IT firms” who send out gener­ic respons­es to com­plaints. Rather, this new real­i­ty requires thought­ful con­sid­er­a­tion from com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­als. 

Live Video Continues to Grow

As our soci­ety becomes more and more visu­al, video has been a top trend for a few years. It’s no sur­prise giv­en live video’s suc­cess, espe­cial­ly on social media. A recent report from Cis­co pre­dict­ed that 75% of the world’s mobile traf­fic will be video by 2020. Even if this esti­mate is over­ly ambi­tious, live video is rack­ing up bil­lions of views on Face­book, Periscope and oth­er plat­forms. Insta­gram recent­ly announced it’s adding live video too. Live video explod­ed in 2016 and will con­tin­ue to dom­i­nate con­ver­sa­tions next year. 

Influencers Become Contributors

Sim­i­lar to live video, this trend is one that has gained momen­tum in 2016. The con­ver­sa­tion about influ­encer mar­ket­ing will evolve in 2017 as more orga­ni­za­tions and PR agen­cies lever­age influ­encers as ongo­ing con­trib­u­tors. Find­ing authen­tic advo­cates who actu­al­ly con­nect with their fol­low­ers and your tar­get audi­ence is the new guide. Celebri­ties and influ­encers just look­ing for a check won’t be a pri­or­i­ty for most com­pa­nies. The much-report­ed back­lash against influ­encer mar­ket­ing is more about its evo­lu­tion and why in 2017, authen­tic voic­es will take the spot­light and deliv­er results for brands.

These trends will have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on PR pros through­out 2017. Are there oth­er fac­tors in play as well? Of course, but there’s sim­ply not space to list them all. For exam­ple, social media is still a jug­ger­naut of a com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel. Iden­ti­fy­ing the best plat­form for you or your clients is crit­i­cal. Mea­sure­ment also remains a chal­lenge and will be a pri­or­i­ty for both agen­cies and in-house PR depart­ments.

Now that 2017 has arrived, con­sid­er the lessons of this past year. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­als across the world saw many unex­pect­ed turns and twists, which have result­ed in new chal­lenges, but new oppor­tu­ni­ties as well.

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By | 2017-04-03T14:28:01+00:00 March 9th, 2017|Branding|Comments Off on 5 Key PR Trends to Watch in 2017