PR in 2014: aggregate, blur and conquer

PR in 2014: aggregate, blur and conquer
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Fearless predictions for PR in 2014 – Australian businesses stop being gloomy and start spending on communications again and the Coalition government actually starts communicating, creating a trickle-down effect that sees all PR people gainfully employed and the economy well and truly boosted.

Ha! Now you’ve had a chuckle, let’s look at the real picture, keeping in mind these key questions: What are all the downsized journalists doing? What new avenues will digital media present? And how will multi-skilled PR newcomers shape their environment?

 

Blurred Lines – the difference between news media, blogs and PR output will become further blurred

Contraction in the journalism industry has put the media cats among the PR pigeons. In 2012 some 15% of Australia’s journalists were made redundant. Not all of them have become Real Estate agents. Some have found work in their old-school media stomping ground, others have had to embrace roles in digital media and many more now skirt the industry as PR practitioners or bloggers.

What this means for PR is that there are now many more practitioners and a swag of niche operators, all able to work from a home office, nearby cafe or shoebox in the local park. Overheads are down, lifestyle is in and clients/businesses have choice – hire an ex-journo for in-house content creation, gun for a digital specialist to build your social media platform, go niche with an industry expert or go large with a consultancy that can tailor resource for any sized project.

Being your own channel will continue to be all the rage in 2014 and the best storytellers – regardless of whether they’re from a news, blog, PR or customer source – will draw the intended audience.

 

Justification Proclamation – the PR industry will raise the bar in proving its worth

PR practitioners have traditionally been poor at PRing the industry and promoting themselves, much like a builder living in a renovator’s dream but never fixing anything.

That will need to change in 2014 as shrinking budgets and the ability to self-promote prompts some companies to consider DIY PR more carefully.

PR will fight back by clearly communicating its credentials and expertise – especially in strategy, media knowledge and contacts with key influencers – and by utilising new analytic tools to measure ROI and also interpret data to determine future beneficial activity.

More channels means more chatter, but PR will be able to reach more targeted eyeballs and prove its effectiveness in engagement and prompting positive action.

 

The Rise of the Collective – amalgamation and alliances will give PR strength and breadth

PR people have been proud to be early adopters and great adapters, quickly cottoning on to how to communicate via new technology and channels. But learning how to smart fax and how to put together a video feed for a 24-hour news network is child’s play compared to the challenges new tech provides today.

That’s where aggregated knowledge and skills come in. For the bigger consultancies that could mean growth through acquisition and amalgamation. For the smaller players and self-employed the prospect of forming alliances becomes increasingly likely. Strength in numbers means access to more expertise and more resource when needed.

With pressure on bottom lines, technology allowing for virtual offices, more freelance ex-journalists around and social media platforms allowing for the creation of collaborative networks, creaky old business models could be bulldozed to make way for the power of the collective to emerge.

 

Multi-Multi-Skills – being a good writer isn’t enough these days, story-telling needs imagery and placement nous

My daughter has just finished her first year of tertiary education, studying to be a public relations practitioner – I know, I begged her to get into acting, the armed forces or mining, but would she listen? – and the array of skills she is developing would amaze the majority of PRers who have come from a journalism background.

Being able to put together a video, from scripting to filming, editing and distribution, is now a core skill. Understanding content marketing and the value in building a long-term audience is fundamental, as is social media understanding and execution.

For long-term PR practitioners the need to be multi-skilled means learning new tricks, looking to the collective to cover gaps in expertise or bowing out to write that long overdue novel.

The saving grace for the wily PR campaigners is their ability to think strategically and to know what tool or tactic to use at the appropriate time. Wiser, more experienced heads will continue to provide the strategy in 2014, but implementation across appropriate channels will be the domain of the young and tech-hip.

 

Picturing This and That – the trend towards videography and infographics will accelerate

Platforms like Twitter rose by promoting brevity. Vine and Instagram took that snapshot mentality to a whole new level in video and images. Short, sharp and eminently engaging – it’s a formula that is proving to be online gold…and PR needs to be mining from the same treasure trove, especially with more eyeballs accessing mobile sources – smart phones and tablets – in bite-sized chunks.

How does your material stand out from the crowd? Can you capture the essence of an issue with one photograph or a single meme? Can you elicit an emotional response with one headline?

Once again technology – in the form of templates and easily uploaded and posted material – is helping to spread content. What will never be supplanted is the creativity to nail the content. Creativity in PR will continue to be vital in 2014 as it is in any other year.

Jackie Crossman, Managing Director, Crossman Communications

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