Predictions are always dangerous. People way ahead of the curve throw jabs about how such and such changed a long time ago. People way behind the curve yell “hypocrisy!” Of course, you always stand to be wrong at the end of the year. But why should that stop us?
These predictions are for the industry as a whole. Since you are a marketing rock star, you may think one or two of them are old news. Trust me, they aren’t. For example, a friend in the industry was asked the following question by an executive vice president who oversees the internal and external communications of his Fortune 500 company.
“What exactly is a blog?”
That wasn’t in 2004. It was eight months ago.
On with the show. Here are five trends to watch in 2009. They aren’t the only changes that will happen this year. But I believe each will change how we look at and practice PR, both strategically and in the day-to-day execution.
People Relations – I’ve said it before. I think the P in PR is changing from “Public” to “People.” We’ve always targeted publics by pitching media outlets based on the demographics and interests of their readers/viewers/listeners. Thanks to social media tools, we can target people based on their interests. The difference – and it’s a big one – is that now we can have actual conversations with consumers more easily than ever before. That puts the focus on people as individuals instead of simply the larger group they may belong to based on their household income or gender or hobbies.
This year, we’ll see more PR folks wrap their arms around that reality and understand the power of helping brands connect and build relationships with people in ways that are even more compelling and meaningful than a USA Today story on page D13.
Measuring People – This won’t be new for some. Katie Payne and others have been preaching this stuff for years. But I think the way we look at measurement will continue to shift at a much greater pace in 2009. More agencies will challenge their clients to see the value of measuring more than just impressions and advertising value equivalency. More clients will push their agencies to do the same. Both will begin to understand that having 65,000 people read their online news release is as or more valuable than 15 million impressions that may be buried deep in an online news site or at the back of section F.
I think that more clients will get comfortable with these types of results even though they are seemingly smaller because of the great work being done on the digital advertising side. Marketing clients know the value of a page view and a click-through. Communications departments will begin catching up with that mindset.
The Death of “Viral” – Every client wants its agency to produce a viral whatchamacallit these days. And, of course, agencies are happy to chase after it. The truth is, though, that you can’t predict – and therefore, create – “viral” campaigns. You can create online campaigns that you hope will go viral. But we know that most don’t. As more clients experience the letdown of that and better understand the difficulty of achieving success at it, I think we’ll see more of them get over the “let’s do something viral” knee-jerk reaction and concentrate instead on creating smart integrated campaigns that include compelling digital work.
More Story Opportunities – With the seismic changes going on daily – even hourly – in the traditional media realm, it may seem that news coverage opportunities for brands are dwindling. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. Actually, we’ll have more opportunities for coverage than ever in 2009.
More media outlets are expanding their online presence, which means more opportunities for coverage. Web editors don’t have the same page space limitations as their newsprint counterparts. That doesn’t mean they take crappy pitches and turn them into stories. It means you have a better chance of not having a good story get left on the editing room floor.
Also, more journalists are using social media tools as part of their jobs, which provide more outlets for stories – especially by those who blog. Your story may interest a particular BusinessWeek reporter who also blogs on businessweek.com. While the story may not make the cut for the print edition, said reporter can still write a blog post about it.
PR pros who look beyond traditional media outlets – even beyond general online coverage on a news Web site – will land more stories and help their clients look like superstars.
The People’s Choice – This is where you share what you think will change about PR and communications in 2009. What will be new and different this year? What will cease to exist?
*Image by Mark Norman Francis.