The world we live in is changing. The way we did things yesterday is not the way we will do them next year – and the rapid pace of change is affecting all businesses and ways of working. The world of public relations (PR) is no different. More dynamic than ever, PR is constantly progressing, transforming, and impacting the business world – and there are several key trends to keep an eye on.
Digital continues to advance
New and innovative trends are emerging that can become game changers for businesses globally. The accelerated global adoption of 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies has already altered the way in which we approach our customers.
The “one size fits all” approach is quickly becoming untenable, and audiences want focused approaches that provide information on demand. Personalised content – with greater reach through utilisation of search engine optimisation tactics – will treat individuals as an audience-of-one, enabling more engagement and deeper connections with the brands PR agencies represent. Relevant content is still core to this approach, and innovating to utilise multimedia content to reach a highly social and digitally active market is becoming the norm, and PR has had to pivot to adapt traditional PR approaches on social channels.
Accessibility – in all shapes – is changing the media landscape
The media landscape will continue to blur the lines between paid, owned and earned media. More and more media outlets are moving to a “pay to play” access model, with exclusive content readable behind a paywall. Far from being an all or nothing approach, PR agencies are adopting a hybrid model that suits the needs of their clients. The rise of sponsored or partner content pushes into the paid media space – while simultaneously adding value and engaging the target audience at different points in their journey with the brand.
The way that people are consuming information is also shifting. Gone are the days of dedicating time to read the news or listening to the radio in traffic. We have more choice in what we consume – and how and when we do. People listen to podcasts while running, or text-to-speech news articles while commuting. Single-screen focus is a thing of the past – and we now scroll social media or play on apps while other content (maybe a news feed or YouTube) simultaneously plays on a second screen. The sheer volume of available information is endless – and PR faces the challenge of capturing interest and share of voice for their clients in a highly competitive environment.
By creating multiple, accessible formats of client content – including video with close captions, voice overs on video and transcriptions of interviews – the chances of catching attention in any of these available moments becomes exponentially greater.
Journalism is changing – and facing challenges
The pool of journalists in South Africa is shrinking, which creates a new set of challenges in the PR space. Time constraints and under-resourcing are putting pressure on an industry that is already in flux, creating fewer opportunities for PR agencies to represent their clients in traditional media channels. This is partly alleviated by the hybrid access model, however, this reduced headcount and access to journalists will have far-reaching impacts on the quality of journalism in the future. PR agencies are finding that a proactive approach is the most effective in this situation.
Tech4Good is making businesses shine
Originally the theme of Davos 2020, Tech4Good is becoming central to the narrative of many leading brands. Organisations are expected to have a voice and make a difference using their influence in the market, and are focusing on meaningful and lasting reasons to exist – with shareholder value as a result, not the end goal.
While shifting focus from profits to purpose may sound counterintuitive, statistics show that consumers are four times more likely to buy from a brand with a strong purpose, and are choosing brands because of the stand that they take on social issues. Companies, such as Unilever, with sustainable approaches show growth. Their purpose-led Sustainable Living Brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business – delivering 75% of the company’s growth.
PR agencies are finding that this change has a ripple effect, resulting in the need to incorporate “green content” and sustainability into their campaigns.
The future of PR
In the foreseeable future, technology will continue to drive trends in PR. Since COVID-19 changed the way we consume information and engage with people and brands, PR agencies have been on a constant route to reinvention – that is not likely to stop soon. By embracing technology and constantly innovating, we can remain one step ahead of the curve and ensure that we continue to add value to our clients.