The evolution of the PR industry will continue apace into 2018, with even more opportunities for agencies to compete with other marketing agencies for integrated briefs. But with this comes many challenges to diversify, specialise and up our game. My focus for the New Year will be on developing out analytics function for the benefit of all clients, refining an approach to influencer marketing, and attracting new talent to the PR industry in Scotland to support diversification.
1. Mainstreaming of analytics
As an industry we have been talking about analytics for years. Whether for use in campaign planning or for measuring results, we have long been aware of the need for data to underpin all that we do. But real analytics take time and cost money, and we’ve struggled to get clients to recognise that it is so important they need to pay more. This is changing. The increasing accessibility of Google and Facebook analytics, aided perhaps by the attention given to GDPR, means that for most C-suite executives, data is no longer exclusively related to finance. Our clients are increasingly aware that, if we base campaigns on real insights, we can deliver so much more effectively against objectives. Likewise, if they pay for evaluation, they can finally prove what they always knew – the PR budget is money well spent. In 2018 data will come out of the PR closet.
2. Time to question the power of The Influencer
Sadly for some of us, the era of the social media influencer is not over, but it is time to stop bending over to the demands of a few self-made superstars with dubious credibility. Thanks to increasing availability of tracking tools and a better understanding of the true reach of influencers, practitioners are changing their approach to influencer marketing, aligning strategies more closely to the ‘advocacy’ campaigns of old. Instead of paying eye-watering fees to characters of a certain demographic because they have amassed millions of followers, we are spending more time seeking out those influencers who may not trend daily, but who do have the respect of the audience we are trying to reach. These micro-influencers, thought leaders before they are celebrities rather than vice versa, are less likely to have agents and are more likely to work with a brand because they align with its values. And they deliver value for money. It’s a win win.
3. From generalists to specialists
PR practitioners have traditionally been exceptional generalists. We can write, sell, pitch, evaluate, analyse, strategize, counsel and measure. But as we are increasingly asked to pitch against advertising, digital and marketing agencies that have real experts in each of these disciplines, can we still pull it off?
Analytics, paid media and planning are just some examples of specialisms that go beyond the skill set of most generalists. Increasingly we will see PR companies stealing experts from the advertising agencies. Elsewhere, existing team members will be encouraged and supported to specialise, creating new career opportunities.
This does, of course, mean that graduates of PR courses will need to compete for entry-level jobs against students from other disciplines. And this is where I think the PR industry needs to engage the further and higher education sector. We need to put our heads together and discuss what will be required of the PR practitioners of the future.