ITL #524 Strategic foresight: 10 considerations for PR practitioners6 months, 2 weeks ago
For the three years ahead, public relations practitioners require long-term strategic foresight. By Alain Grossbard.
- Embrace emerging technology: As technology advances, public relations practitioners must stay current and find ways to leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and augmented reality (AR).
- Think mobile-first: Most of the population now accesses the internet and engages with content through mobile devices. Public relations practitioners must optimize content for mobile consumption and ensure their messages reach the right people.
- Focus on data-driven decision-making: By using data to inform decisions, public relations practitioners can better understand the needs and interests of their target audience and create more effective campaigns.
- Leverage employee autonomy and influencers: Influencer marketing is a powerful tool for public relations practitioners. By partnering with prominent influencers, brands can reach a wide audience and create positive conversations around their products and services.
- Utilize social media: Social media is a powerful tool for public relations practitioners. By leveraging social media platforms, brands can connect with their target audiences and create conversations around their products and services.
- Develop relationships with media outlets: Developing relationships with media outlets is key for public relations practitioners. Establishing relationships with the right media contacts can help brands.
- Embrace content marketing: Content marketing is a great way for public relations practitioners to create meaningful conversations and engage with their target audiences. By creating high-quality content, brands can establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry.
- Use storytelling: Storytelling is a great way for public relations practitioners to capture the imagination of their target audiences and create compelling narratives about their brands and products.
- Invest in crisis communications: Crisis communications is an important part of public relations. By investing in crisis communications, brands can create strategies to prepare for and respond to potential crises.
- Prioritize measurement and evaluation: To ensure the success of public relations campaigns, practitioners must prioritize measurement and evaluation. This will help them track progress and make informed decisions about their campaigns.
Each priority consideration is outlined in a little more detail.
- Embrace emerging technology: Digital technology adoption has been escalating exponentially, and the pandemic has given it a greater boost. Online retail, telework, telehealth, education and entertainment have all boomed in just the last few short years. We are arguably still in the early phases of the digital transformation, with the majority of change still ahead. These impacts will be substantial in terms of communication and public relations functions. The coming three years should reveal whether the public relations practitioner will be able to cope and make changes to ongoing communication and mobility patterns, with these trends having significant implications for the future of the workforce, cities and regional centres and the ways of clearly and ambiguously conducting business. For example, websites can have artificial intelligence to help create new content and maintain existing content. Digital PR should focus on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and visibility as content has become imperative and creativity is vital to developing and performing tasks. PR is also vital in SEO as it is the primary source of building links. The relationship between SEO and PR will become more critical so PR practitioners should improve their SEO skills to make the most of this growing trend.
- Think mobile-first: Our newer generation of people born during and after the digital age is always on and attached to a mobile phone or other computer-related devices. They are more intuitive learners, multitasked but able to rapidly task switch, and are multimedia orientated. They are digital natives in our community. Our generation now whether young or old are very much dependent on their smartphone for at least five hours a day. The average individual cannot go away from their phone for more than 30 minutes without looking at what messages they may receive. For example, 92% of mobile users will read an SMS message within two minutes of receiving the text. Distraction from whatever they are doing to review their phone is an ever-problematic matter in concentration and completion of tasks. There has been a gradual shift in how our society views public engagement via communication avenues.
- Focus on data-driven decision-making: AI is already leading to communication and productivity improvements, but it will be essential for the public relations practitioner to be constantly up to speed with ongoing and future developments in communication. Data-driven ideas are born that are backed by the use of AI, which increases the reach of new ideas. This will be seen within the social media field where digital media tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn will continue to place their importance in the next three years. These platforms will be used for thought leadership content and connections, and to develop communication with the media and fellow public relations professionals. Two-way communication platforms should be offered for responses will undoubtedly lead to an improvement in the process of PR campaigns. A diverse community will present a new perspective on strategies and campaigns, and those will resonate with the global target audience.
- Leverage employee autonomy and influencers: Employee communication is paramount to the success of an organisation. The new phase is to ensure employees are engaged, productive, and satisfied in their workplace when they are able to be themselves. Diverse workplaces are now considered to be a competitive advantage. It is not only customers who benefit from businesses that promote diversity and inclusion but also employees. The features of AI make it hard-pressed to ignore the importance and major advances in the capability and application of advanced autonomous systems and this includes communications. There will be a more apparent focus on social science and humanities.
- Utilize social media: There is a growing recognition that effective communication requires drives that support dialogue, trust, relationships, and public participation across a diversity of social settings and media platforms, whether digital or social media. Even though practitioners look for new directions, many communication efforts continue to be based on ad-hoc, intuition-driven approaches, paying little attention to what makes for effective public engagement. Communication efforts need to be based on a systematic, empirical understanding of the intended audience's existing values, knowledge, and attitude, their interpersonal and social contexts, and their preferred media sources and communication channels. Influencer marketing is a powerful tool for public relations practitioners. By partnering with prominent influencers, brands can reach a wide audience and create positive conversations around their products and services.
- Develop relationships with media outlets: Developing relationships with media outlets is key for public relations practitioners. Establishing relationships with the right media contacts can help better communication. However, this trust bubble looks to have burst. The issue of false information, fake news, and inconsistencies in communication have made people less trusting of organisation information. There are also important human and ethical dimensions to technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity issues that are increasingly gaining attention. Individuals in our community are becoming more sceptical and therefore there is a need for more trustworthiness and not just trust. These social dimensions provide an important overlay for how our leaders should take to build trust in themselves and their organisations and think about future business, policy and community decisions. Trust between the media and public relations practitioners should be a very high priority with the considerations of concepts such as sincerity, reliability, commitment, integrity, competence and consistency.
- Embrace content marketing: Consumer changes are distinctive. They are ever-changing the way they think, consider and act through the communication channels that they use. Websites and influencers play a critical aspect in the way they communicate in the increasing use of company blogs, mobile apps, and virtual reality and immerse experiences. Podcasts are increasing in popularity as they focus on niche topics attracting a highly engaged and interested audience. Additionally, websites need to earn respect from their audiences through reviews, mentions, shares, likes, ratings and forums. Consumers are moving from finding a store or place to purchase to using websites in a more convenient manner to satisfy consumer demands. Equally, consumers are less inclined to spend a length of time searching for a reasonable price, now they are more focused on the value the product or service it brings to the consumer. There is also evidence that consumers are less likely to be influenced by advertising and promotions and more dependent on honesty and well-formed communication about the product or service.
- Use storytelling: Storytelling can be a powerful tool for better communicating with target groups. By using storytelling techniques, a public relations practitioner can effectively convey complex ideas and information in a way that is engaging and easy to understand. Authenticity also leads to trust .PR practitioners must ensure that their communication has an authentic and personal voice and genuinely believe in what the company stands for. PR experts are still needed to ensure a human, authentic connection. Storytelling in businesses, institutions and enterprises has seen a short-term boost in communication during the early to mid-stage of the covid pandemic, national elections, and recent environmental issues affecting our communities. People are more likely to connect with and remember stories that have a personal experience or anecdote in a story to make it more relatable and memorable.
- Invest in crisis communications: Crisis management planning has become critical. In the age of social media, it does not take long anymore for news to spread, and any actions can either work in your favour or against you. Research shows that nearly every organisation will experience a significant public communication challenge every five years. So, when negative information hits the media and the experiences can be perceived as negative publicity, social media will continue to play an important role. Whether the incident is as minor or major, like a faulty product, ineffective service, or a supply chain issue, unresolved matters can quickly escalate into greater ones, causing significant financial and reputation damage to a business. To regain the trust of your target audience will need to consider using social media more as a crisis management tool.
- Prioritize measurement and evaluation: Emphasis on measuring impact is becoming a vital tool to assess the success of public relations practitioners. There is greater emphasis now on evaluation measurements using metrics such as engagement, impressions, and reach, all easily accessible with digital PR. With tools such as Facebook Business Suite, Sprout Social and Hootsuite, tracking digital success is more effective than before. This compares with the more traditional PR of quantifying newspaper articles and magazine advertisements. PR aims to improve brand perception, encourage customers to purchase and increase loyalty, all through metrics. These things are becoming easiest to measure with the ever-increasing use of PR analytical tools. All this justifies PR practices and actions.
There will be a number of changes in the public relations landscape in the next few years, and it is these PR trends that will need to be considered regarding how public relations practitioners gain positive and long-term effective results for their clients, stakeholders, customers and the public at large.
Alain Grossbard OAM, FPRIA is Australian and since 2011 has been an educator in public relations at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a Board member of IPRA.
Alain Grossbard OAM, FPRIA is Australian and since 2011 has been an educator in public relations at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a Board member of IPRA.mail the author
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