PR Trends to Watch in 2019
2018 was an exciting year for the PR industry. There were data breaches, social media crises, CEOs lacking self-awareness, artificial intelligence, and an increasing focus on...
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2018 was an exciting year for the PR industry. There were data breaches, social media crises, CEOs lacking self-awareness, artificial intelligence, and an increasing focus on corporate social responsibility. Of all the PR trends in 2018, it is safe to say that the biggest one was companies like Facebook, Tesla, and Papa John’s coming to understand the importance of PR the hard way, which proved to many other companies (once again) that they need to get onboard with PR before they find themselves in a crisis, not after.
What PR trends will 2019 bring in the wake of such an exciting 2018?
There is finally a plethora of data available to PR professionals everywhere to help prove to executives that PR is essential to a company’s bottom line, and therefore just as worthy an investment as traditional marketing and advertising. However, the availability of data comes as a double-edged sword to those who are unprepared. Agencies or in-house departments that cannot use this data to their advantage will struggle in the face of competitors who can keep up with this PR trend.
This also speaks to the importance of monitoring the right data when it comes to measuring your success, environment, and sentiment. Campaigns can produce ludicrous amounts of data, so it’s important to ask yourself: Which KPIs matter for your company/campaign? Single data points alone are a good way to gauge the health of your campaign, but you need to be able to understand the larger story that the data is telling overall. In other words, don’t drown in your data.
Increasing recognition of PR’s importance means that PR and marketing are more frequently executed hand-in-hand. This means that PR will continue to receive larger chunks of the overall marketing budget than it has in the past and that the budgets themselves will become more aligned.
A great example of this trend is influencer marketing, which blurs the lines between earned media and paid media that usually accompanies traditional marketing. Namely, PR pros should continue focusing on working with people from the marketing department on a more frequent basis.
This trend will change the way that the success is measured because when the lines between PR and traditional marketing blur, the more obvious it is that a marketing campaign as a whole cannot be considered a success unless the PR component is a success.
According to Edelman, half of consumers considered themselves to be belief driven buyers in 2017 (this rose to 2 out of 3 in 2018 – a leap of 13 percentage points in just one year). As such, they are more likely to be motivated to buy when a brand markets itself with a purpose-driven message. In other words, while many companies practice corporate social responsibility by donating to or partnering with non-profits, purpose-driven brand messaging is when a cause becomes a part of the brand.
This PR trend will help public relations develop campaigns by tailoring them around what their buyers believe in. For example, Nike never would have launched its Colin Kaepernick ad if they didn’t know for a fact that the majority of their current and potential customers supported him (which brings us back to the data!)
Some examples of purpose-driven brand messaging beyond Nike include the WNBA’s “Take a Seat, Take a Stand” campaign, Dove Men+Care’s paternity leave oriented “#DearFutureDads” campaign, and REI’s “The President Stole Your Land.”
The final PR trend we will be discussing influencers. When influencer marketing was first “born,” it was just celebrity endorsements – like being on the front of the Wheaties box. News flash: most elite athletes probably don’t even eat cereal but will pretend they love Wheaties more than anything for the right price.
As social media, individual brands/personalities, and general consumer savviness continue to grow, so does the importance of actually matching a product brand with the right influencer brand. The better the match, the easier it is to co-create a compelling story with an influencer rather than just going with inauthentic and overt product placement. Knowing your customers well makes finding this perfect match between product and influencer a breeze (or at least relatively easier).
If 2018 taught us anything, it’s that PR’s influence is growing and changing in the wake of an increasingly digital, high-tech, and informed world. Whether that change focuses on data, marketing integration, purpose-driven brand messaging, influencers, or all four, one thing is for sure: it’s a really good time to be in PR.
About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft provides PR and marketing services with a global reach for tech companies seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of their services include content marketing, social media strategy, as well as ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.