Nick Bell is a featured contributor to The Definitive Guide to Public Relations in a Shifting Media Landscape.
Here's the complete contribution:
How will public relations evolve over the next 3-5 years? How will it change with technology?
These questions are one in the same. Technology will be the driving force behind how public relations will mature over the next 3-5 years. And I say mature because we haven’t even scratched the surface about the possibilities technology opens for comms professionals.
Digital tools to help with programs like content and influencer marketing have taken the PR world by storm. Influencer marketing is currently in vogue, but a dramatic shift is on the horizon. The new truth is the way brands are doing it now won’t be working very much longer. Distrust is at an all-time high and with the FCC requirements, it's easier for consumers to recognize when they are trying to be bought. I expect a new approach for agencies to take around influencer marketing from an earned perspective, rather than paid. How can you reach influencers and get them to be loyal to your brand without money exchanging hands?
Another trend. Artificial intelligence (AI). This is a technology that will impact every industry at the core, public relations is no exception. As an example, organizations globally spend billions of dollars on earned media campaigns, yet data and technology are still not being applied to show its worth to the business. This is where you’ll see AI influence the evolution of public relations in the next several years.
AI for its own sake is less than useful — it accidentally cuts out human creativity and intuition from the process — and can negatively impact the way a brand communicates.
However, from a communications standpoint, the most useful application of AI is to augment human intelligence — not replace it. AI is most useful when it solves real-world, practical problems that interfere with a brand’s ability to identify the right influencers, craft and distribute meaningful campaigns, and measure the impact on customer behavior.
As brands learn to properly harness big data as part of their communications initiatives, that’s when you’ll see AI alter traditional approaches to earned media/PR to increase engagement and impact on key audiences.
What are some trends you can cite as indicators for your prediction on the future of PR systems?
The scenario I described earlier sets the stage for marketing communications and PR to be a data-driven discipline that demonstrates business value and revenue impact.
Brands spend billions of dollars on earned media campaigns but have virtually no insight into the business value these campaigns generate. As a result, media investments and strategies are now under a microscope and every dollar spent is being questioned. Unfortunately, the PR industry trails the rest of marketing in its adoption of data and technology. What’s more, PR has traditionally been marginalized and despite clear warning signs, the majority of PR professionals don’t know where to start when it comes to measuring business impact.
The difficult part of earned media is that the ecosystem is quite complex. With an ever-growing list of mediums and channels to reach the end consumer (newspaper, journalists, podcasters, social influencers) understanding how to leverage all of these channels individually is a huge feat. But even more so is the ability for the communicator to connect all of these players in the ecosystem and truly understand the best path for reaching the end consumer to drive business value. Ultimately, communicators aren’t able to measure the downstream impact, nor the actual audience that consumes their media. However, with advanced data and technology using the tools I referenced earlier, all that is about to change.
PR systems, which leverage the digital tools I referenced earlier, are now able to transform the way communications professionals measure and attribute the value of their earned media by tying traditional engagement metrics back to end customer behavior and show how those behaviors support business outcomes. This approach follows technology that has made paid media work the right way by the “big brothers” in the adtech space.
By providing a direct line to proving revenue for earned media, PR will now have a seat at the executive table and make the case to own a larger slice of the marketing dollar pie.
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