As we all lurch, blinking into the new year, trying to remember how to type and what our passwords are, thoughts naturally turn to the 12 months ahead. What’s in store for our organisations and industries? And what are the trends that will influence this?
PR trends largely cut across industries, albeit to greater or lesser extents. As a communications agency, we see this in practice, specialising as we do in innovation and place. While the two areas have their own communications profiles, there are larger, overarching trends that impact both – and this year, among those trends, we can expect to see the following…
Brand journalism building better brands
First of all, what’s brand journalism? In short, it’s a type of content marketing in which journalism is carried out through the lens of a brand. It’s not a case of brands hijacking independent journalism for their own gains, but it recognises that brands can and do have valuable things to say about their own industries. Indeed, in many ways, brand journalism is an extension of the PR practice of providing comments to journalists for use in articles, or even writing full guest commentary articles.
Brand journalism is nothing new – airline and supermarket magazines have been doing it for years – but as the communications landscape has developed, there has been a recognition that insights from brands aren’t only valuable for brand-building but can be shareable contributions to a wider conversation. In 2019 we’ll see this type of content pushing more conversations via social media and, in the business arena, newsrooms will be looking for brands that are creating ready-made, high-quality content.
Comms only getting faster
If you’re not providing insights about your industry to the journalists that cater for your target audiences, you should be. If you are, then you need to be doing it more quickly. The online news environment is such that the outlet or journalist that breaks a story first benefits from the first swathe of people who want to read about it. It’s a microcosm of the first-to-market model.
We’re still in the midst of the media landscape’s upheaval, though, and as more of it moves online, there’s more content and a greater need for the content and commentary to go out as quickly as possible. Journalists need industry commentary as soon as a news story breaks and if you’re ready to provide it then it’s more likely to be you and your brand that gets the gig. We’ll see this so-called “news jacking” continue to grow in 2019 as brands attempt to build relationships and profile in new markets.
Data-driven stories continuing to capture imaginations
More than ever, everyone has something to say, so, in order to be heard, your words need to have more weight than those of your competitors. To do that, what you say needs to be backed up with data. It’s no good throwing around unverifiable claims and flimsy opinions. Journalists want cold, hard facts.
The good news is that most brands are sitting on a pile of their own, unused data than can be sculpted into stories. Brands can also identify what it is they want to be talking about and commission surveys to generate the relevant data. It’s an inexpensive way to create compelling stories for journalists who have more to cover and less time to cover it in 2019.
Quality mattering more than ever
Quality over quantity has long been the communications mantra, but this year it will matter even more. Quality pieces of content will generate more and better coverage, command more click-throughs and, even from an SEO perspective, curry better favour from search engines. In short, one rigorously produced piece of content with supporting materials will be found more, read more and impress readers more than multiple mediocre pieces.
AI-driven public relations taking off
As in so many industries, artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to make its way into the communications mix. This isn’t in the sense of a single PR-delivering AI robot that will replace PR jobs at a stroke, though. Instead, we’re learning what the technology means for the sector and seeing the emergence of distinct and diverse AI tools that can enhance and augment different elements of PR.
Already, audiences can be matched with media outlets with much greater accuracy, outlets can be mined for keywords to identify relevant topics or rising trends and content can be automatically shared and reshared in the most relevant places at the optimal times to ensure targets are hit efficiently. In 2019, organisations will start trying to understand how their comms can best employ AI.
The internet age has changed the communications landscape permanently and dramatically, but it’s easy to look back on the changes that have happened and think that they are complete. In reality, they are still ongoing, and 2019 will see the new approaches and technologies that we are using continue to mature and become more sophisticated. Content will work harder, insights will become sharper and behaviours will be easier to analyse. For those working in comms – whether agency-side or client-side – staying top of those trends will be key to staying competitive.