Over the past decade, as several industries around the world struggled, ours grew and did so strongly. Almost every CEO of any firm of scale accesses some form of continual PR advice. PR is definitely the strongest communications discipline for the 24/7 live brief that needs both instant turnaround of ideas and the ability to handle issues and customer reaction in real time. Undoubtedly the PR industry will continue to make progress with more agencies and in-house practitioners than ever, with boardroom status or presence. Here are some of the trends that will help shape and grow the overall communications industryin 2016 and ahead. And, because they are so significant, they will change things for businesses too.
Organizations Will Be Defined By Communication: With the advent of digital in practically every aspect of our lives, successful companies will shift some brand control to their audiences!A couple of major conferences in 2016 included speakers with themes related to giving up control of your brand to find success. As the world reboots, people are reassessing the worth of themselves and their things. Feeling a loss of control, they are yearning to be practical do-it-yourselfers.Companies don’t own their brand any more than its fans and everyday consumers, own it. Instead, people who use your brand are now curating interactive content, expressing their worldview in images, shared links, tweets and more. PR agencies will need to create content that is linked to the brand’s fan base interests, rather than focusing on content that is solely about the company/ brand. This will give fans the ammunition they need to promote the brand in the way we’d like it done. There will be a distinct shift from words to creating world-class, relevant visuals and infographics.The huge challenge for us in PR will be to create/tailor this content in near real-time!
From Inspirational Story Tellers to DataCurators: Instinct and insight, coupled with analysis – will increasingly play a major role. So far,PR experts have used the story telling approach to select, craft and carry out quality messages that matter most for the brand – and kept them focused on the platforms that give the best results. With the convergence of Marketing and Corporate Reputation, the communications in companies is increasingly being driven by CMOs. The benefit is that PR will now have access tobigger budgets (finally time to rejoice?!). But with that will come, bigger expectations! PR agencies will necessarily need to deliver creativityand demonstrate value through linking insights with data. Data will be more important than ever. Businesses at the highest level tend towards the rational anddata-driven approach. More PR and marketing professionals will embrace numbers. PR agencies that don’t give meaning to data and connect it with (and make it relevant to) human behavior for insight, will be soon become redundant and irrelevant.
Mobile is becoming the primary channel: There is a generation growing up that will always look to their smartphone as their window on the world and the key to their relationship with family and friends, as well as to issues and organisations that are important to them. The entire reputation of companies will soon need to be optimized for mobile. PR agencies will need to think more visual, than text. The internet will be 2/3rds video by 2020. Images give you an 84% better click-through-rate than text. Video boosts your contents’ chance of being selected by Google by 60%. So will traditional media (read: print and TV) soon become redundant in the 24/7 world? Not really! Traditional media houses enjoy a high level of credibility among Indian audiences. The new arbiters of influence are undoubtedly empowered consumers, employees, NGOs, technical experts and social activists. That’s not to say that the traditional media are totally ignored or without trust entirely. It is just that they are now only part of the puzzle and, like our dear family doctor, have lost the position of unquestioned reverence they once held.
Communication with Conscience: Everything is connected now. Social and digital media are a double-edged sword for organizations. Employees blog about their workplace and colleagues, customers tweet about their experiences in real time, about the products they consume, and this is read by an analyst assessing the company’ stock. PR practitioners will need to have a view on everything because it is safer to assume that everything will be public or could be public. Transparency will take centre stage. Our remit in this new and totally interconnected world has just become much wider and much more profound!
Lastly, I am no Nostradamus but I do know that we will have to forget almost everything we have ever learnt in PR and start afresh. That for me, is the excitement of the future…and I would like you to share the excitement! I have looked into the rearview mirror and had my nostalgia trip. But I can’t wait to smash it and look into the windshield as I drive into the future. Coming aboard? Just wait a minute while I pick up my favourite newspapers and magazines.