12 Public Relations Trends To Watch For

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The field of Public Relations is constantly evolving, and here at PRfect Media we are always striving to stay at the leading edge of that evolution. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently asked for contributions to a list they call “12 Trends That Will Change Public Relations.” As someone who toils in the field of public relations and is always adding to my knowledge base, I found this list to be entertaining and thought-provoking. In this blog, I thought I would share these predictions with you.

1. Business Increases its Voice in the Digital Space
If 2011 was the year of brands worked to get their owned-media properties in order, 2012 will be the year public relations professionals empower business leaders and experts to get involved. As 2012 lies ahead of all of us, it’s important for communicators to understand the methodology and value in this and be prepared to work with business leaders, decision makers and subject experts to get them up to speed and involved on digital platforms, if they aren’t already.

2. Convergence Continues
The recent news about Johnson & Johnson appointing a vice president of global corporate affairs, overseeing global marketing and public relations, stands as yet another indication that brand and reputation will continue to converge and create the need for joining forces. This is always a contentious issue in PR; the reality is that organizations will continue to merge their brand management functions (marketing) with their reputation management functions (PR). If PR professionals are going to continue to work closely with their marketing comrades and generate significant results for clients, they need to get more comfortable with analytics.

3. Organizations Will be Defined by Communication
Late last year Time magazine named “the protester” as its “Person of the Year” – which foreshadowed a challenge for every organization in the coming year: never will it be easier for any David to throw any Goliath off stride, and never again will organizations be more defined by communication. As we move ever closer to a world in which the power of global publishing literally lies in the palm of every person, the punishment for failing to listen, engage, anticipate and respond effectively will be severe, and the rewards for an organization which defines itself through communication will be rich, indeed.

4. Wanted: Great Industry Leadership
The issues currently being debated within the profession of public relations are almost exactly the same as those which occupied the industry a decade ago. The topics are familiar to both student and veteran – ethics, formal definitions, diversity, measurement and skills. With better leadership, the public relations industry has the opportunity to become the management consultants of the 21st century. We need to claim our ground. There is no doubt the industry needs leadership.

5. The Rise of the ‘Influence Professional’
The irreversible change wrought by social media and related technologies, combined with advances in business performance management (such as the Balanced Scorecard and strategy maps) require transformation of an organization’s structure, culture, skills, policies and processes to secure competitive advantage, or simply to maintain viability. The task of tracking the six influence flows demands a new skill set and a new job role, which has been dubbed the “Influence Professional.” If a dearth of information characterized marketing and public relations in the 20th century, so-called “big data” is posed to be both the challenge and opportunity of the 21st.

6. Social Validation Becomes the ‘Holy Grail’
In 2012, a campaign’s ability to produce buzz in social or shared media will become a valid barometer of one’s success plying the “earned, owned and paid” media spheres. Some even consider it the “Holy Grail”. As brands increasingly look to integrate their stories across multiple simultaneous channels and platforms, the booming social TV/second-screen revolution will move beyond a novelty to an actual barometer of a campaign’s success.

7. Shifting Metrics and Integration Drive Digital PR
For public relations professionals, 2012 will provide both a challenge and opportunity to have more data-driven decision-making processes. For those who focus primarily on digital, identifying the right data that can inform decisions and integrating across all channels will be positioned for success.

8. The Consumerization of IT Changes PR from the Inside, Out
The consumerization of IT and technology will be an important internal business issue for PR firms in 2012. Consumerization of IT has the potential to increase PR firms’ productivity, engender employee satisfaction and provide a more agile, responsive client service experience. Look for consumer-focused technologies, such as social messaging platforms, to increasingly make their way into the arsenal of PR firms’ in-house communications and IT, fundamentally changing how PR professionals communicate with one another and work directly with clients across multiple platforms and channels.

9. Economic Realities Reset the PR/Media Relationship
The impact of a depressed economic environment will demand incisive PR support to cut through the confusion and blurring of media channels that is sure to intensify in 2012. Social media will continue to exert its sometimes unseen, stealthy influence on more established publishers and broadcasters. A richer, more confusing and, perhaps, less reliable media market will ensue.

10. The Rise of “Brand Journalism”
Layoffs and rapid turnover mean many PR firms are finding it difficult to establish solid relationships or earn the attention their promotional efforts may deserve. This is where “Brand Journalism” comes in. As media fragmentation continues relatively unabated, look for more companies in 2012 to explore the realm of “Brand Journalism”, hiring their own “reporters” to produce brand content and news. While enticing, companies will need to carefully weigh the ethical perils inherent in Brand Journalism.

11. Solo PR Pros Make Their Mark
A confluence of events will make 2012 the year the industry discovers that independent public relations consultants are its secret weapon. As the economy edges toward recovery, the key to weathering the oscillating business cycles that have become the norm is the effective use of independent PR contractors. There is a growing understanding within the business community that solo PR pros are experienced and savvy professionals, who play a key role in public relations.

12. Talent Acquisition Goes Social
Will hiring for public relations positions increase in 2012? Many economic indicators offer encouragement. Beyond an increase in specific job openings, reports indicate a fundamental shift taking place in the way the job market functions. Continuing use of social media as a means to enhance one’s career prospects will pave the way for new talent-acquisition opportunities and challenges. The coming year will find employees encroaching on HR territory, serving as brand ambassadors to prospective employees. A coordinated effort between HR and public relations to offer continued social media training and guidelines is essential.

By: Ron Merrit, Founder On Advertising