Published on December 21, 2016
Oh, the last few weeks in December — that special time of year when industry prediction posts become as ubiquitous as ugly holiday sweaters and peppermint-flavored everything.
While I’m certain there will be plenty of articles about what’s next for the world of PR and communications (like this one from the incomparable Gini Dietrich) I’m going to take a different approach.
Last year, my colleague Rebekah published a swell overview of everything a PR pro might need to know at the onset of 2016. Rather than gaze into the distance, let’s shine a spotlight on past predictions to see which were on the money, didn’t take root, or are starting to blossom but haven’t quite come to fruition.
Here are a few PR behaviors Rebekah flagged as “ready to be retired” in 2016:
Rebekah said… “Stop calling journalists you don’t know out of the blue thinking they will call you back or be happy you called.”
My take: PREACH! These days, pitching is all about personalization, and personalization can only occur when PR pros do their homework. The good news? This is a lesson many PR peeps took to heart in 2016. The bad news? There are still plenty of spammers out there. Let’s keep making headway on this in 2017, shall we?
Rebekah said… “Stop reporting headline impressions and AVEs as key metrics.”
My take: Impressions are merely the number of opportunities to be seen, not what was actually seen. Impressions, however, do have their place if, and only if, you’re employing a funnel approach to PR measurement.
Sadly, PR is having a hard time letting go of these metrics as the gold standard, so let’s hope there’s more of a move to embrace a spectrum of metrics instead of continued rigid adherence to impressions and AVEs in 2017.
Rebekah said… “Stop writing press releases for the express purpose of making an executive happy.”
My take: Our customer data shows that the ROI of press releases is consistently underwhelming considering the amount of money and resources they require. That’s not to say that the press release is dead; its function merely needs to be reimagined. There is a time for the press release, but it’s probably not as often as you think.
Rebekah said… “Stop believing that you are supposed to like analytics and numbers, when in fact, you probably never will. That’s okay. But it’s an important part of the PR function, so figure out a hack for it.
My take: The most innovative PR teams are doing one thing differently than the rest: they have identified someone to own measurement and data analysis. And that person is empowered to call out the good, the bad, and the ugly, so their team can integrate learnings into future PR campaigns. Data is useful, but only if insights from data are put into action.
Now that we’ve covered PR behaviors to drop once and for all, let’s analyze the accuracy of Rebekah’s PR predictions for 2016.
Rebekah predicted… “For B2B businesses, LinkedIn Pulse and Medium are a boon for marketing and PR and will continue to gain traction as leading publishing platforms.”
I say: +1 to LinkedIn being a leading publishing platform in 2016! Our customer data consistently shows LinkedIn to be a primary driver of both brand awareness and traffic back to site.
We haven’t seen quite the same return from Medium, but we are noticing that traditional media outlets are providing exciting opportunities to brands via the self-publishing platform.
Rebekah predicted… “Data first: PR pros need to include data in the content planning phase, then track all the way through outcomes.”
I say: -1 for the fact that data still must fight for its place in PR. The objectivity and accountability data provides cannot be overlooked, so let’s all check our data bias and embrace the fact that data is here to stay.
Rebekah predicted… “Influencer endorsements will become even more important. If you can’t get them organically, brands will have to pay for them.”
I say: Spot on, Rebekah! Influencer relationships are the new black. They are becoming as important as relationships with journalists, so knowing how to establish and deepen these connections is paramount. This trend isn’t going anywhere so bone up and get ‘er done!
Rebekah predicted… “Virtual reality will heat up and meet the desire for data as well as brand experiences.”
I say: Another notch in the PR prediction win column! It’s not just virtual reality (VR) that’s transforming brand experiences, it’s augmented reality (AR) too. (Think Pokémon Go.)
These two technologies are poised to fundamentally reshape brand communications and introduce a whole new playing field when it comes to customer acquisition and retention.
Looking back, I’d say Rebekah was pretty spot on with her 2016 predictions! But I have a feeling a lot of these nascent PR trends will evolve into stronger versions of themselves in the year ahead. What do you think we’ll see more of?