4 Massive Trends in PR and Communications Your Brand Needs to be Dominating Right Now

Let's face it, us public relation professionals are on the frontline of online brand reputation protection and promotion. Part of this vital role means evaluating new tools, platforms and analytics as and when they are adopted by our colleagues and the PR industry at-large. With this in mind, here are four PR trends that can be leveraged in order to take your reputation management strategy to new heights. Psst.. keep ahead of the curve and download our recent trend ebook!

The public relations world is constantly changing and the environment we operate in today is entirely different from that two or three years ago. Driven by constantly-shifting consumer habits and the explosion of social media, the gap between marketing and PR is becoming closer than ever. This is partly thanks to the shared responsibility of online reputation management. For example, is a negative online review on Twitter the marketing or PR departments problem? It's both of theirs. This is just one trend that's impacting online reputation management, read on to explore additional trends that you also need to be aware of.

1. Influencer Relationship Management

Many traditional public relation channels like mass media, celebrity endorsements, and product placement are quickly taking a backseat to an explosion of wildly popular “influencer marketing.”

An influencer can be nearly anyone whose opinions are respected. They can take the form of a popular radio DJ, talk show host or a friend/ family member. Today, the most popular  influencers tend to be online: bloggers, YouTube stars, podcast hosts, social media entertainers, etc. These individuals may not always have the largest audience, but they often carry a lot of Klout and sway within a very targeted niche. Since influencer marketing focuses on communities, it's a simple method to use if yure looking to boost online reputation amongst target personas. 

Earning the attention, favor, and trust of influencers either organically or through paid means is an incredibly effective (and usually very cost-efficient) way to get your brand and products associated with whatever thoughtful insights, hilarious comments, valuable information, or unique personality quirks that make them popular. But engaging and interacting with influencers requires a unique strategy; they’re frequently not experienced public figures with agents or established systems for brand partnerships. Often they’re just busy professionals who run a podcast in their spare time or young bloggers that aren’t even old enough to have a career yet.

Creating and nurturing relationships with these kinds of personalities requires a delicate touch and a thorough understanding of an influencer’s audience, niche, and content. Without keeping this in mind, they can do more harm to your online reputation than good. Many PR and marketing executives are realizing this and recruiting digital marketers specifically to manage their influencer marketing campaigns and relationships.

The world of influencer relationships is still immature and wide open to proactive brands. But the longer you wait, the harder (and more expensive) it will be to get the attention of the right influencers that engage your target audiences. With this in mind, it's wise to start hashing out your influencer marketing strategy sooner rather than later.

2. Online Reputation Management

When people Google your business, what do they see on the front page of the search engine? 

For most organizations, the first search engine result will hopefully be the company home page (if it’s not, you have bigger problems to deal with). But unfortunately, the rest of the SERP is often filled with less-flattering content, like negative news coverage, a Yelp page packed with unfavorable comments, or a Facebook wall littered with negative online reviews.

Over 80% of buyers do research online before making a purchase decision. Rest assured they’re not only reading about your products; they’re also evaluating your brand based on such online reviews. 

Unsurprisingly, they’re more likely to buy if they like what they see. But if they encounter unflattering content associated with your business, they’re likely to look elsewhere.

Good online reputation management doesn’t mean just covering up any non-positive mentions of your business and products online. It means putting yourself in a position to avoid that negative attention, proactively generating positive stories and press to balance out unfavorable content, and responding appropriately to criticism and complaints. A deft PR leader brought in with a public relations executive search can even turn negative experiences into powerful, positive press.

3. Tracking and Analyzing Your Communications Initiatives

There was a time, not long ago, when businesses didn’t really expect to know how impactful their PR and external communications efforts were on their online reputation. They’d just issue some announcements, publish some press releases, maybe have a press conference, and hope for the best.

Today you should expect much more from your public relations team. The PR industry alone will be a more than $13 billion dollar industry this year, yet many business and marketing leaders will have no idea whether those investments are paying off.

If you’re not tracking the impact of your public relations efforts and how you're moving the needle, you’re probably wasting your time. An exact, hard dollar ROI value might not always be possible. But you should at least be able to have a good idea of basic KPIs like brand awareness and favorability, social engagement, quality traffic driven, etc.

Just as importantly, you should see active efforts to test new communications tactics and improve your strategy over time.

4. Internalizing and Streamlining Communications Teams

Matters of public relations and communications have often traditionally been handed off to specialized agencies. However, in today’s fast-paced media environment many brands are finding more success focusing on recruitment and insourcing their communications teams, bringing in new leadership through communications executive search, and cutting out the middle man.

A PR opportunity–or crisis–can appear and spread in the blink of an eye. Your brand’s window to respond to them in the most effective way is often very short.

But when you need to be fast, agency channels slows things down with an extra layer of internal processes, approvals and gatekeepers. And as important as a time-sensitive opportunity might be for you, there’s no guarantee your agency will have the interest or ability to prioritize it over their obligations for other clients.

That’s why it’s best to be prepared with aggressive marketing communications and PR recruitment to stock your business with a team that’s intimately familiar with your brand voice and strategy and can act directly under the direction of your communications executive. At the end of the day, people drive brands - so don't underestimate the value of a strong PR recruitment process.

Third party partnerships still have a place in the world of marketing communications as buzz generators or connections to valuable media relationships (though a PR executive search might be needed to find a leader who can choose the right agencies). But it’s probably wise to ween your business off reliance on someone else for your own communications strategy and focusing on optimising your internal recruitment process.

To learn how to spot trends in PR, download our latest ebook and add these valuable skills to your public relations toolbox.