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Mon 13 Jan 2020 04:14 PM

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Zaib Shadani, PR Consultant: The future of public relations in 2020

Evidence shows that micro-influencers are extremely successful in engaging with their audiences

Zaib Shadani, PR Consultant: The future of public relations in 2020

Zaib Shadani – PR Consultant and media trainer at Shadani Consulting

As we embrace 2020, we take a look at the future of Public Relations (PR) and how best to break through the media chatter and ‘fake news’ to successfully engage target audiences. With the communications industry constantly evolving, its critical to stay on top of the latest trends and advancements - here are the top six PR trends to consider:

1. Integration of Augmented Reality (AR) into PR outreach

2020 will be the year that we see AR enter mainstream PR, where communications professions integrate AR into PR strategies. Storytelling comes in many forms, and AR allows one to take visual storytelling to another level - a leading example of how AR is already part of our daily social media outreach can be seen by the fact that anyone can now create their own AR filter on Instagram stories, through Spark AR Studio. One of the first businesses to capitalise on this opportunity was Kylie Cosmetics, where people could “try on” different lipsticks from Kylie’s Lip before making a purchase. Streetwear label Off-White were also quick to jump on the bandwagon, rolling out their AR filter ahead of their show at Paris Fashion Week, allowing users to “wear” sunglasses from the brand’s collection.

2. The emotive storyteller will be the winner

As our world becomes increasingly dominated by algorithms, digital devices and chat-bots, the need for human connection is becoming more pronounced. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the realm of PR, where creating meaningful connections is what resonates with people. Breaking through the clutter to create content that captivates, engages and has relevance for audiences will be the real challenge in 2020. Those who are able to engage in emotive storytelling, using a range of tools including text, visuals and multimedia to capture the hearts and minds of audiences, will be the ones that emerge as successful communicators.

3. The rise of the Micro-Influencer

There is no denying that influencer marketing has become an important tool within integrated communications, but many brands still gravitate towards macro-influencers, (who have followers in the average range of 50,000 – 300,000), assuming that they are the most impactful and effective way to engage with audiences. One of the biggest PR trends will be the shift towards tapping micro-influencers, (individual with audiences under 50,000 followers), on behalf of leading brands.

Evidence shows that micro-influencers are extremely successful in engaging with their audiences because they are authentic, trusted and most often, cater to a niche audience. What they lack in mass numbers they make up for in driving ROI for brands, due to a deeper connection with their audiences. While audience size will still be a determining factor, we will see brands widen the KPI net and scope of evaluation, before selecting an influencer that can successfully emulate their brand values.

4. Digital and On-line Media will flex their muscles

Traditionally, PR has been focused on getting coverage in tier 1 print publications, where space is limited and competition is extreme. However, in recent times most print outlets have launched online editions, and we have also seen a tremendous increase in the number of online blogs, influencer content, and self-published platforms. Content is now being digested via a whole new array of sources, as compared to five years ago and this boasts exciting times for PR professionals.

While influential tier 1 print media outlets are relevant and carry clout, the increase in alternate digital outlets and popular on-line platforms means that there is now a wider playing field - as well as more options for smaller clients. Instead of focusing on getting coverage from only big-name media outlets, there is a marked shift towards engagement with digital outlets and on-line platforms as the ‘other option’, besides mainstream media.

5. Blurring of lines between PR & content marketing

While the PR industry has been mostly text based, the onset of the mobile-first and digitally driven environment has made it critical to ensure interactive media, images and video content are used to support news content.  Although the PR industry has been relatively slow to integrate content marketing into its mainstream outreach, we will see the merging of corporate communications and content marketing into an integrated approach, as the dominant trend in 2020. With news being disseminated across multiple channels including print, on-line and digital, we will see PR, social media and content marketing now working as one to strategize, execute and amplify the same story.

6. Qualitative Analytics will take a front seat

Conventionally, PR outreach has been measured mostly quantitatively, through circulation, on-line page visits, views, interactions etc. However, analytics technology has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years with companies like Onclusive (formerly AirPR) moving beyond simple media monitoring towards measuring the effectiveness of campaigns, ‘power of voice’ against competitors and most importantly, the impact on the bottom dollar, of PR outreach.  With analytics that show how a PR campaign has affected web traffic, number of resulting articles, social media conversion, performance of core messages and linking of online interactions to company sales, the future of how we measure PR success is becoming more in-depth and qualitative in nature.

Zaib Shadani – PR Consultant and media trainer at Shadani Consulting